Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne December 24, 2012

Bird to make Boxing Day debut

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Jackson Bird will become Australia's 431st Test cricketer on Boxing Day against Sri Lanka after the coach Mickey Arthur confirmed the left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc would be rested. The decision means the only remaining uncertainty around Australia's side is the fitness of the captain Michael Clarke, who will be given until the morning of the match to prove himself ready, after batting in the MCG nets on Monday.

Bird, 26, will share the new ball with Peter Siddle and his strong record in Melbourne, where he has taken 14 first-class wickets in two matches, indicates he should be suited to the conditions. However, there will be extra pressure on Bird given that the man he is replacing, Starc, collected 5 for 63 in the second innings of Australia's victory against Sri Lanka in Hobart and remains fit and will be left out only because of workload concerns.

Starc, 22, is expected to return to the side for the Sydney Test, and his rotation out of the team means Bird, Siddle and Mitchell Johnson will share the pace duties in Melbourne. Arthur defended Australia's decision to rest Starc, who has taken 14 wickets in the past two Tests, and said it was made with the goal of ensuring he will remain fit for Australia's busy upcoming schedule in 2013.

"That's a real tough decision to make," Arthur said. "It's a tough conversation with Mitch and he took it very well. He's clearly very disappointed and I wouldn't expect anything other than that. We've just got to look and see the amount of cricket that we've got going forward. Mitch is integral to that.

"Mitch is our one quick bowler who plays in all three forms of the game. He starts in all three forms of the game. It is tough on Mitch but hopefully he misses one Test to make sure that we don't have another injury and that there's a lot of longevity with that decision and he's ready to go in the one-dayers, he's ready to go for the tour of India and he's ready to go for the Ashes."

Arthur said he was confident Bird could handle the pressures of Test cricket given the way he had risen to first-class cricket since making his debut last summer. Bird, who plays for Tasmania having moved from New South Wales to gain greater opportunities, is a consistent bowler who works on a nagging line and length.

"When he went down to Tassie he has bowled unbelievably well, he's taken 50 wickets last season and well on the way, leading wicket-taker in the Shield this year," Arthur said. "He brings line and length, he brings pressure, he swings the ball out, he brings some nice pace. He's got all the attributes of a quick bowler. We've got a lot of faith in Jackson. At the start of the summer we had a list of bowlers that we wanted to keep fresh and keep ready to go and Jackson was one of them."

Bird spent Monday morning working hard in the nets, where all eyes were on Australia's captain Clarke, who continued his recovery from a hamstring injury. Clarke faced 15 minutes of throwdowns from the assistant batting coach Stuart Law and then spent about half an hour facing the bowlers, including Johnson, Nathan Lyon and John Hastings, who is not part of the squad, and he also jogged between the wickets to test his running.

Australia will not make a decision on whether Clarke leads the side or hands the reins to the vice-captain Shane Watson until the morning of the match, and while Arthur said he was happy with Clarke's progress, he also indicated that the upcoming workload would need to be taken into consideration. The decision will be made based on advice from Clarke and the team physio Alex Kountouris.

"We'll give the skipper as long as possible," Arthur said. "That might only be on the morning of the game. He's clearly improving. Whether or not that gets it over the line I'm not sure. But we'll give him right until the very last before we make that call.

"I'd love Michael Clarke captaining the team in a Boxing Day Test match with a series on the line. He went far better today than he did yesterday and I suspect he'll go far better tomorrow than he did today. It's a 50-50 call. We've got to be mindful as well, much like the Mitchell Starc decision, of the amount of important cricket that we've got coming up. We've got to be intelligent with the decision we make. But if I was a betting man I'd bet on Michael Clarke leading the team out on Boxing Day."

Dean Jones, the former Test batsman and batting coach of South Australia, has been on hand at the MCG over the past couple of days, working as a mentor to the batsmen in the same way that Allan Border, Greg Blewett, Tom Moody and Matthew Hayden have earlier this summer. Jones spent plenty of time with Clarke in the nets on Monday and said while he was impressed with the captain's work, the test would be running between the wickets in a match situation.

"[He was ] absolutely superb, I couldn't fault him at all," Jones said. "He ran a bit between the wickets and he was good. He's going to take it until the last minute I think, but batting wise he was fine. [But] with the soft surrounds around the pitch, if you bat first and you're running between the wickets, you get into a situation where there might be half a chance of a run-out, you put your spikes in and you see what happens there. I'm bullish the way he is. He looked really good in the nets. Better than yesterday."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RVC-38 on December 25, 2012, 22:33 GMT

    I still think between Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Harris, Hilfi, Cutting, Bird, Hilfi, Cummins, Halzelwood they can take 200 English wickets. god help them if Anderson gets injured.

  • landl47 on December 25, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    I guess Australia is being cautious with Starc because of the experience with Pattinson. They were advised that he would break down in the SA series, played him anyway and sure enough he broke down. I haven't heard anything suggesting that Aus has been given a similar warning about Starc, but once bitten, twice shy.

  • popcorn on December 25, 2012, 14:13 GMT

    I cannot understand this CHIP CHOP Selection Criteria. Would the Selectors have rested Mitchell Starc if we were playing against the Poms? Why wrap him up in cotton wool? When we have a winning combination going,why change it? Mitchell Johnson should have ALSO played at Hobart, after his superlative performance against the Saffers at the WACA.Instead,the Selectors brought in Hilfenhaus at Hobart,who was not as tired as Siddle,but was rested at the WACA. Hilfy left the field at Hobart due a side strain. Funny how we treat these DELICATE fast bowlers. How does Jackson Bird get a leg up over Trent Copeland (unfit?) Pat Cummins (unfit?), James Pattinson (unfit?). What message are the Selectors conveying?

  • dummy4fb on December 25, 2012, 11:08 GMT

    2Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (December 24 2012, 04:05 AM GMT) Who? haha this is all getting abit embarrassing for the poor little aussies

    Remember those words this guy is the real deal check his first class numbers beware the ashes

  • AKS286 on December 25, 2012, 10:10 GMT

    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!! @ FieryFerg BBL is a T20 competition don't compare with test. no one can judge talent from T20 if you judge then look at IND cric team.

  • Vindaliew on December 25, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    Brett Lee was quite injury prone in his later days too, but if he was fit you'd never get him to miss a game simply because you wanted him to be "rested". Australia seem to have lost something when that generation retired. The aggression, talent and skill are still there, but the selectors need to hone the weapons to keep them sharp, not keep them in storage.

  • Big_Maxy_Walker on December 25, 2012, 7:00 GMT

    how did glenn mcgrath get through all those series without injuries? the only injury prone bowler i remember from the golden era was Dizzy Gillespie. Now with this rotation bowlers are dropping like flies. Starc had to play, and johnson should be forgotten

  • gogoldengreens on December 25, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    Lucky these selectors Weren't around when McGrath & Gillespie were starting off or they wouldn't have found rhythm... Resting after one game is a bit soft if Starc is needed for one day series rest him after this test if series is won... Look what happened against south africa rest once the work is done not half way through. That is how the rest of society works work first then relax

  • line.and.length on December 25, 2012, 0:26 GMT

    I'm not a fan of this resting policy, however I can sort of understand that they might want to be a little over-cautious with Starc given that Pattinson, Cummins, and Hilfenhaus are already out with injuries, and with Harris not ready to come back yet, especially given how much cricket he has played this year. But what I have great issue with is that if they truly want him to be rested and 'well managed' before the upcoming demanding 2013 schedule, then why not rest him from the T20s? and even the one-dayers if need be? Go aussies

  • line.and.length on December 25, 2012, 0:26 GMT

    I'm not a fan of this resting policy, however I can sort of understand that they might want to be a little over-cautious with Starc given that Pattinson, Cummins, and Hilfenhaus are already out with injuries, and with Harris not ready to come back yet, especially given how much cricket he has played this year. But what I have great issue with is that if they truly want him to be rested and 'well managed' before the upcoming demanding 2013 schedule, then why not rest him from the T20s? and even the one-dayers if need be? Go aussies

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