Millennium Post

Bird lands debut as Clarke decision on hold

Australian quick Jackson Bird will make his debut in the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka, selectors said Monday, while skipper Michael Clarke was given more time to prove his fitness.

Lanky right-armer Bird will line up alongside strike bowler Peter Siddle with Mitchell Starc controversially rested as part of Cricket Australia's rotation policy.

Mitchell Johnson replaces the injured Ben Hilfenhaus while spinner Nathan Lyon retains his place as Australia look to make it 2-0 in the three Test series after winning the opener in Hobart last week by 137 runs.

Australian coach Mickey Arthur said Bird was in great form and deserved his chance. ‘He brings line and length,’ Arthur said. ‘He brings pressure, he swings the ball out, he brings some nice pace, he's got all the attributes for a good quick bowler.’  Bird built a strong case for selection with 80 wickets in his 14 Sheffield Shield matches for Tasmania at 17.54 and has snared 14 of those in two matches at the MCG at 12.07.

Starc misses out despite bowling superbly in Hobart with Arthur saying he was being rested ahead of a gruelling 2013 schedule.

‘Mitch is our one quick bowler who stars in all three forms of the game,’ he said. ‘We've got such a lot of important cricket coming up and Mitch will be integral to that.

‘It's tough on Mitch. Hopefully he misses one Test to make sure that we don't have another injury.’

Starc is likely to return for the third Test in Sydney on January 3. Clarke was named to captain the team after batting in the nets Monday, but concern remains over his fitness after the world's leading Test batsman suffered a hamstring twinge in the Hobart Test.  Arthur said he would train again on Tuesday with a decision on whether he plays left as long as possible.

‘He's clearly improving. He went far better today than he did yesterday,’ Arthur said.

‘If I was a betting man I'd bet on Michael Clarke leading the team out on Boxing Day. It will be a consultation between Michael and Alex (team physio Alex Kountouris).’

If Clarke fails to recover, his place will go to Usman Khawaja, with Shane Watson assuming the captaincy.AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey, Matt Wade, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Usman Khawaja.
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