Bird in line if Harris not risked
Jackson Bird could play his first Test of this Ashes tour after being named in Australia's 12 for the fourth Investec Test at Chester-le-Street, starting on Friday. Given the three-day turnaround between Tests, the main issue facing the selectors surrounds their management of the injury-prone fast bowler Ryan Harris, who was rested in the West Indies last year when the team faced a similar back-to-back Test scenario.
If he plays on Friday, it will be only the second time in his career that Harris has played three consecutive Tests and the first time he broke down in the third of those games, the Boxing Day Ashes Test of 2010-11. On that occasion Harris suffered a serious ankle injury but he has had a number of other problems during his short Test career, including shoulder surgery last year and a chronic knee injury.
Harris was left out in the Caribbean last year after he took five wickets in 37.4 overs and scored an important half-century in the Barbados Test. A three-day gap between matches, combined with his workload, general fatigue and the fact that he had battled a stomach bug in Barbados led the selectors to take a conservative approach and sit Harris out for the next Test in Trinidad, despite his strong form.
The circumstances on this occasion are strikingly similar. Again there is a three-day turnaround after the Old Trafford Test, where Harris bowled 38 overs and was off the field at times due to a stomach complaint. Harris appeared exhausted when leaving the field at the end of the third day in Manchester and although the rain on the final day gave him some extra recovery time, the Australians will want to see how Harris performs at training on Thursday before making a decision.
"In my mind I'm confident Ryano will be fine," captain Michael Clarke said on Wednesday. "Us not bowling on that last day because of the rain is definitely going to help our bowlers. It gives them another day to recover, and I don't think any of the quicks who bowled in the Test have been bowling many overs in the nets over the last couple of days. There will be plenty of treatment, recovery, rehab. I'm confident he will be fine."
After Australia's strong showing in Manchester, the selectors would be keen to choose the same side, all things being equal. Bird is the only inclusion in the 12 for Chester-le-Street from outside the 11 who played at Old Trafford, meaning there will be no recall for Ashton Agar, while other squad members including James Faulkner, Phillip Hughes, Ed Cowan and Matthew Wade have also missed out as expected. Clarke said Bird would offer plenty if selected.
"He was picked because he was one of out best bowlers no matter the conditions," Clarke said. "We know if there is a bit in the wicket he is a very good seam bowler and he has shown that in first-class cricket for Tassie. Have a look at his record and he has performed just as well away from home on flat wickets. He offers this squad a lot and if he is given an opportunity he will grab it with both hands."
Australia squad Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin, Jackson Bird, Ryan Harris, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here