Cameron Green out of Sydney Test but defies fracture finger with fifty

Allrounder's injury creates a selection dilemma for the final Test where two spinners may be considered

Cameron Green was the second Australian to retire hurt on day two  •  Getty Images and Cricket Australia

Cameron Green was the second Australian to retire hurt on day two  •  Getty Images and Cricket Australia

Australia allrounder Cameron Green defied a fractured finger that will rule him out of the Sydney Test next week with an unbeaten half-century on the third day at the MCG.
It was confirmed on Wednesday morning that scans on Green's right index finger had revealed the small fracture after he was struck on the finger by Anrich Nortje while batting late on day two and was forced to retire hurt.
The injury means he won't be able to bowl again in Melbourne and will also miss his BBL stint with Perth Scorchers in a bid to be fit for the Test tour of India in early February.
However, he was able to resume his innings and walked in at the fall of the seventh wicket then forged a 117-run stand with Alex Carey, facing 177 deliveries before Pat Cummins declared. Though he occasionally removed his hand from the bat he did not seem in significant discomfort.
"I actually didn't think he was going to walk out the race today," Carey said. "But to see him put on a brave face, bat beautifully and allow me at the other end to bat as well...allowed us to put on a really good partnership."
However, his injury was a blow to Australia's bowling stocks in the MCG Test, particularly after Green took a career-best 5 for 27 to bowl South Africa out for just 189 on the first day.
Green's injury also creates a headache for Australia's selectors ahead of the Sydney Test. Mitchell Marsh had been the back-up allrounder in the Test squad for the last 12 months, including the Ashes and tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but he is currently unavailable as he recovers from ankle surgery.
It does open the door for Western Australia allrounder Aaron Hardie, who has been on Australia's radar since his breakout performance in last season's Sheffield Shield final. He also performed superbly for Australia A during the winter tour of Sri Lanka and played in the Prime Minister's XI, which was effectively an Australia A side, against West Indies in November.
However, Hardie's Shield form did tail off following an excellent allround match against Queensland at the WACA in October, although he has started the BBL well for Perth Scorchers, including making 55 against Sydney Sixers. Another option the selectors could consider is recalling Michael Neser and bat him at No. 7, which he does in Sheffield Shield cricket, as part of a five-man attack with Carey moving up to No. 6.
Mitchell Starc is also carrying an injury to the middle finger on his left hand after injuring it while fielding on day one. There are reports he has suffered ligament damage, but it has not been confirmed by CA.
Starc was clocked about 140kph in his opening spell in South Africa's second innings before the rain came although the injury was causing him discomfort and he was regularly wiping away blood.
Australia already have a bowling cover for Starc if, as expected, he is ruled out of the Sydney Test with Josh Hazlewood and Lance Morris currently with the squad. Head coach Andrew McDonald hinted on SEN radio that Starc's injury may present an opportunity for Morris. There is a possibility they could add a second spinner to the squad ahead of Sydney given the SCG pitch has been very spin-friendly this summer. Mitchell Swepson was the incumbent second spinner, having played four Tests in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but there has been talk of Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa and Todd Murphy threatening the pecking order ahead of the India tour.
If Australia don't pick another allrounder to replace Green, they will have to consider whether to play six batters and five bowlers, or seven batters and just four bowlers. Marcus Harris, a specialist opener, is the only spare batter currently with the squad. A middle-order player such as Peter Handscomb could also come into the mix.
Marnus Labuschagne had a decent bowl in the nets on the morning of day three before rain interrupted the warm-ups. He was working on his seam-up bowling with Australia's stand-in bowling coach Andre Adams. Steven Smith was also bowling some off and legspin.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo