Northants injury crisis grows

David Willey tears away in celebration of a hat-trick PA Photos

Northamptonshire's injury problems are growing ahead of the start of the new season. Jackson Bird, the Australia fast bowler, has been ruled out due to a back complaint, allrounder David Willey is unlikely to start the season due to his own back problem and Rob Newton has picked up a thumb injury.

Bird, who has played three Tests for Australia, has been ordered to rest for four months by Cricket Australia so will be unable to take up his county deal which had already been reduced to six Championship matches. Northamptonshire have said they have made an offer to another overseas fast bowler as a replacement.

"Obviously this is disappointing news with the start of the cricket season less than two weeks away," the club said in a statement. "However the club has been aware of Jackson's potential ongoing injury for some time, having already amended his original contract in order for his workload to be managed more carefully to allow him a pre-season in Australia."

Their pace-bowling resources have been further hit by the likely unavailability of left-armer Willey for the opening match against Durham as he continues to be hindered by the back problem that hampered his winter and forced him out of the England performance programme in Australia.

Newton's fractured thumb at least appears less serious and he may yet be available for the start of the Championship - Northamptonshire do not being until the second round of matches so Newton has some extra time on his side.

The county can ill-afford to lose more batsmen. Alex Wakely, the one-day captain, is expected to miss the entire season after rupturing his Achilles on the pre-season tour of Barbados. He underwent surgery last week and is now at the start of what will be a six-month recovery.

David Sales is also suffering from a calf injury while Ben Duckett, the England Under-19 batsman, has a knee problem.