Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke has been cleared to play but Australia’s best-performed paceman of the past 12 months, Doug Bollinger, will be replaced by Peter Siddle when the Ashes series starts tonight.
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting confirmed Clarke would definitely line up in the first Test against England at the Gabba after shrugging off injury concerns.
While Clarke had said he’d have to wait to see how he pulled up on match morning, Ponting said there was no risk in playing the 29-year-old batsman.
“Michael Clarke has got through his work very well in the last couple of days,” the skipper said.
“I’m not sure what the long term diagnosis is but I’m sure he’ll get through this game.”
Left-armer Bollinger was released from the 13-man squad along with Clarke’s standby, Usman Khawaja, to head interstate to play a Sheffield Shield match for NSW after selectors swept Victorian Peter Siddle back into the bowling attack.
Siddle hasn’t played Test cricket since January due to a stress fracture in his back but Ponting is a huge fan of his no-holds-barred seam bowling, which will reap plenty of bounce on a juicy wicket.
“Being out for so long and missing so much cricket, and other blokes coming in, it does put pressure on you when you come back to show people that you can do it,” Siddle said.
“It is going to be a big challenge but I’m fitter and feeling better than I ever have. I’ve got three Shield games in.”
Bollinger, who missed the second Test in the 2-0 series loss to India last month with a side strain, has 49 wickets from 11 Tests at an excellent average of 23.79, far superior to Siddle’s record of 60 at 31.53 from 17 Tests.
Siddle will team with Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus, the attack which played all five Tests in last year’s 2-1 Ashes series loss in England, as Australia’s front-line quicks.
The presence and bowling form of all-rounder Shane Watson meant there was little need for a fourth specialist quick, allowing for left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty to make his Test debut as one of three Tasmanians in the side.
Australia (likely): Ricky Ponting (capt), Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus.