Australia play down Mitchell Starc injury worries after chastening day

Fast bowler struggles with shoulder and leg problems but assistant coach Vettori confident of fitness

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Mitchell Starc required treatment after hurting his shoulder in the field, England vs Australia, 4th Ashes Test, Old Trafford, July 20, 2023

Mitchell Starc required treatment after hurting his shoulder in the field  •  Getty Images

Australia are confident that Mitchell Starc will be fit to bowl on the third day at Old Trafford despite landing heavily on his left shoulder and being unable to throw the ball on his brief return to the field.
Starc suffered the blow when he dived at mid-on in the 65th over to intercept an on drive from Harry Brook. Briefly it looked nasty as he stayed down but he was able to walk off with the physio and doctor after initially attempting to stay on the ground.
Starc returned at the end of the following over, with the hope of being able to bowl late in the final session, but after chasing a ball towards the boundary three deliveries later he did not feel comfortable in throwing and left the field again.
After play he was receiving ice treatment and there were no immediate plans to send him for a scan with a further assessment to take place on Friday morning. Earlier in the day, he had also appeared to have discomfort in his left leg having felt it a couple of times while bowling and again, more significantly, after a dive on the boundary, but that was not considered a concern.
"I think the leg is good, no issues there," Daniel Vettori, Australia's assistant coach, said. "The shoulder, we saw what happened in the field, he's currently got some ice on it and we're pretty confident it will be right tomorrow.
"He's one of those guys who doesn't like to spend too long off the park. But he got straight into a hot spot and three balls in a row came to him in the field and he didn't quite feel comfortable throwing it. I haven't actually spoken to him but that's what it looked [like]. We're all pretty confident he can bounce back tomorrow."
Starc, who has enjoyed a successful series after missing the opening Test at Edgbaston, made the first breakthrough for Australia when he found Ben Duckett's outside edge and added a second when Moeen Ali was well caught at midwicket by Usman Khawaja.
The final two Tests of the series are back-to-back which would put time pressure on anyone who did pick up an injury in this match. Scott Boland, who has played twice in the series, and Michael Neser are the reserve quicks.
The more immediate concern for Australia is whether they can retain the Ashes before reaching The Oval having endured a chastening day at the hands of Zak Crawley and Joe Root. A poor forecast for the weekend might be their biggest ally, but Vettori insisted it wasn't at the forefront of their minds.
"It all leads to batting exceptionally well in the third innings, that's what will set up the rest of the game as well as how well we bowl tomorrow," he said. "We won't have a chance to have a say on the result unless we do the next day well. England are in control, but if we can come in and get those final wickets for as few runs [as possible], then it sets up for that final innings and the weather may play a part in that."
From England's point of view, Crawley was not privy to any discussions between Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum but thought that they would look for as big of a lead as possible rather than an early declaration on the third day.
"I'm not sure, anything could happen with Stokesy," he said, "but while there are two very good players at the crease Jonny [Bairstow] still to come, and good tail-end batters, I think the gameplan would be to bat once. Maybe if we lose a couple of wickets early that might change but I'd have thought it would be to get a big lead. We are expecting them to bat well."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo