Clarke, Harris and Siddle put on ice
Australia's selectors have decided to take no chances with key members of the side for the first Ashes Test, with Michael Clarke, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle all set to rest from this week's Sheffield Shield matches. While England's cricketers will be warming up for the Gabba Test with a four-day match in Sydney this week, several of Australia's Test players will also be enjoying some match practice with a full round of Shield games scheduled.
But Clarke, Harris and Siddle will not be among them, and instead will head to Cricket Australia's new high-performance facility at Allan Border Field in Brisbane to work with the Test team's coaching staff. Clarke has scored 88, 7 and 43 in his two Shield appearances so far this summer but given his ongoing back problem, the selectors and team management are loath to take any risks with his fitness, given the number of times his injury has flared up this year.
"We're very pleased with Michael's preparation ahead of the first Test," the coach Darren Lehmann said. "The plan for his Ashes build-up was to play two Sheffield Shield matches, which he has done successfully. He has spent valuable time in the middle batting and fielding. Importantly his back has coped well in both matches, but we will continue to take a sensible and cautious approach to managing him."
Harris and Siddle will be the spearheads of the Test attack and will be especially important given the long list of injured fast bowlers already this season, including James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Harris and Siddle have each collected five wickets in two Shield matches so far this summer and will be rested from this week's games.
"On the fast bowling front, Ryan and Peter are both in great condition," Lehmann said. "As part of their management plan they will continue their preparation under the guidance national coaching staff in Brisbane over the coming days."
Harris and Siddle are likely to be joined by Mitchell Johnson in the pace attack for the Gabba Test, while the allrounder James Faulkner could also come into consideration if Shane Watson's hamstring injury prevents him from bowling. Australia's squad for the first Test will be announced on Tuesday, before the Shield matches begin.