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Starc 'still lacking a bit of strength', touch and go to be ready for Delhi Test

Cameron Green's chances of playing have increased dramatically following a positive nets session

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc has admitted he is behind where he would like to be ahead of the second Test in India while Cameron Green's chances of playing have increased dramatically following a positive nets session in Delhi two days out from the start of the match.
Both players missed the first Test in Nagpur due to the respective finger injuries they suffered during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa late last year.
Starc did not travel with the team to Nagpur and instead remained in Sydney to do four bowling sessions at home, some with a splint on his middle finger to protect his tendon injury while two were without.
Starc has already had one bowling session in Delhi having arrived before the team did after flying in from Australia on Sunday. But speaking before Australia's main session on Wednesday he admitted he was not as far advanced as he would like to be just two days out from the Test match.
"There's still a fair bit of restriction there," Starc said.
"Still lacking a bit of strength having been in a splint for six weeks. But it's progressing - not as fast as I would have liked, but it's as planned in terms of the medical stuff. There's a few boxes to tick but it's on track.
"I'd like to be a little further down the road.
"Still a good chance. It'll come down to how it reacts by the end of the day, how the medical staff see it, how the selectors and Pat [Cummins] and Ronnie [Andrew McDonald] feel about it as well. I'll do everything I can to be fully available for selection. Then it's a discussion for the rest of the group involved."
Starc bowled two separate spells on Wednesday and batted in the nets for an extended period. He started the four-hour session with some outfield catching and then had a long bowl. It was only his fourth bowl without the splint. He bowled without the splint in Australia twice last week and then again on Monday. Prior to that he had been maintaining his bowling loads while bowling with the splint on and using his left index and ring finger to hold the ball.
There was the odd sign of discomfort from Starc in his first spell but he appeared to look in decent rhythm. He batted without any discomfort before returning to have a second bowl to test it again after it had stiffened up. He was able to bowl again for a short period but his spell ended in some discomfort before holding a lengthy discussion with McDonald, Australia physio Nick Jones and selector Tony Dodemaide.
How Starc recovers over the next 24 hours will dictate his availability. He is in line to replace Scott Boland as Australia would love to add some extra pace, left-arm variety and a greater exponent of reverse swing to their attack. He was an automatic selection and a key figure in their two-pace two-spin attack on the tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka last year. He will also create more rough outside the off stump for the right-hand batters which would help Australia offspinners Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy.
"Nath [Lyon] gave me a big hug here," Starc said. "We haven't got too many right-handers. That's always a discussion point being a left-armer. I'm a bit heavier on the crease than some of the other guys, who don't make too many marks. That's always going to come into play. If I do suit up for this second Test hopefully I can create a bit of havoc out there for the spinners."
Including Starc would come at the cost of the scoreboard control that Boland offered in Nagpur.
Green light for Cam?
Green's availability is vital to Australia although having both he and Starc at the selectors' disposal does provide so many more options.
Green had one of his best training sessions on tour so far. He caught hard balls in the outfield for the first time on tour having only caught soft balls in Nagpur. He had another long bowl in the middle and looked in good rhythm. There are no concerns about him being underdone from a bowling perspective.
He also faced fast bowling throw downs in the nets for the first time and batted for well over an hour with batting coach Michael Di Venuto throwing to him the entire time with a side arm. The Arun Jaitley Stadium nets were incredibly low and slow and there weren't any balls flung that reared up off a length to threaten his surgically repaired right index finger.
Green did receive some sharp jabs of pain in the finger from balls that were struck off the toe of the bat, with the reverberation through the handle causing him to wince in pain. But he was able to push through and batted comfortably against both the pace throwdowns and spin bowlers. He still hasn't faced an actual fast bowler since batting with the broken finger in the second innings of the Boxing Day Test where he made an unbeaten half-century while batting with a painkilling injection.
But provided there are no adverse effects from his lengthy net session on Wednesday, and there is no concern that the bone still hasn't healed properly, he is looking increasingly likely to play on Friday. His presence, even if not at 100%, adds so much flexibility to Australia's line-up.
It means Starc could play if they wanted to risk him given they will have a third fast bowling option. Or it could open the door for a third spinner to play with one of either Ashton Agar or Matthew Kuhnemann coming into the mix alongside Lyon and Murphy while Green plays as Cummins' lone fast bowling partner.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo