Australian skipper, Steven Smith, confirmed his playing XI on the eve of the Boxing Day Ashes Test. There is only one change on the side. An injured Mithcell Starc has been ruled out and replaced by right-arm pacer, Jackson Bird,
“He’s (Bird) worked very hard. He hasn’t played since this game last year and he’s been on a few tours. Guys have come in and jumped him. When he goes back to Shield cricket, he’s dominated. He’s bowled exceptionally well in the first couple of Shield games that he played (this season). He bowls well out here (at the MCG). He deserves a crack and hopefully, he goes really well,” Smith said on the eve of the game.
Bird had played a total of eight Tests till now and would be playing his first home Ashes Test. Incidentally, his debut Test came at the same venue in a Boxing Day match against Sri Lanka. He was retained by the selectors for this game and was not released to play Big Bash League, as a precautionary measure.
Starc suffered a heel injury on the fourth day of the third Test match in Perth. Despite that, he continued to bowl on the fifth and final rain-marred day where Australia was able to bowl out England to win the game by an innings and 41 runs. Starc was later seen walking with crutches and was officially ruled out yesterday (December 24).
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Just one change in the Australian side means there will be no place for Peter Handscomb.
Mitchell Marsh, who replaced him in the Perth Test, will continue in this game as well. Marsh has every reason to be in the playing XI, as well. The all-rounder played an innings of 181 and also shared 301 runs for the fifth wicket with Steven Smith.
Tim Paine joined the squad well in time and will don the gloves in penultimate Test as well. Josh Hazlewood will spearhead the pace attack in the company of Pat Cummins and Bird with Mitchell Marsh chipping in with his pace as well.
The Boxing Day Test of Ashes series will be played from December 26 to 30 at Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne. Australia will look to dominate the visitors in the series with an aim to whitewash the Joe Root-led side. On the other hand, England has a tough task to see off Australia in the next game.
Playing XI: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (VC), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.
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