ESPN Cricinfo: Jackson Bird, the Tasmania fast bowler, could make his Test debut at the MCG on Boxing Day after being included in Australia’s squad as a replacement for the injured Ben Hilfenhaus. Usman Khawaja has also been named in the 13-man group as the Australians wait on the fitness of captain Michael Clarke, who retired hurt during the Australia’s second innings in Hobart with a hamstring injury.
Clarke is hopeful he will be fit for the second Test against Sri Lanka, but Khawaja will come into contention if Clarke takes longer than expected to recover from the problem. The rest of Australia’s squad remains the same, with Mitchell Johnson retained after being named 12th man for the Hobart Test.
“It’s not too bad. I’ve got a bit of time leading up to the Boxing Day Test, I’ll be having plenty of treatment but I’ll be confident I’ll be right for Boxing Day,” Clarke said. “I’m always going to be positive because I know I’m in great hands with Alex [Kountouris], I know how good a physio he is, I know how good my physio is in Sydney over the next few days.
“They’ll communicate and I’m really confident with eight days turnaround, I’ll be giving myself every opportunity to be right. Mickey and the selectors will give me as much time, as required leading into the game. My preparation will be a bit different in the lead up to this Test match, but I’ve done a fair bit of batting so I’m confident if I can do everything in my power, I’ll be right for Boxing Day.
“It’s a strain, to what level I don’t know, the scans were pretty positive and I’m in really good hands.”
The national selector John Inverarity said that Khawaja had earned the right to return to the national team after scoring in testing conditions in the Sheffield Shield so far this summer, notably making runs on a Gabba green-top against South Australia at the start of the season, then compiling a century on a treacherous Hobart surface against Tasmania. Inverarity also confirmed Shane Watson would lead the team if Clarke was unfit.
“Usman turns 26 today, just one week younger than Jackson Bird, and he has been in good form this season. He has played especially well on occasions when conditions for batting have been very difficult,” Inverarity said. “If Michael is not able to take his place in the side then Shane Watson will Captain the team. Shane acquitted himself well when he deputised for Michael in the ODI series in the Caribbean earlier this year in March.”
Inverarity’s panel will need to decide on their preferred attack for Melbourne, with Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle having bowled the side to victory at Bellerive Oval. Johnson and Bird are likely to be battling for one position.
Bird, 26, burst on to the first-class scene last summer with 53 Sheffield Shield wickets at an average of 16 in his debut season, topping the tournament tally. He has followed that strongly this season with 27 victims at 20.55 and is again on top of the Shield wicket list.
“We’ll pick the best attack to take 20 wickets, if it’s two left-armers, it’s two left armers,” Clarke said. “Jackson is the leading wicket-taker in first-class cricket this year so that was certainly the main factor in us bringing him into the squad.”
The Squad: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (Capt), Michael Hussey, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird, and Nathan Lyon.