Australian pace spearhead Mitchell Starc has been ruled out of the boxing day Test match in Melbourne with a bruised heel, after picking up an injury in the third Test match at Perth. Jackson Bird will now replace Starc in the side.
Starc, the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 19 scalps, has been put in cotton wool ahead of an arduous tour of South Africa starting in March. Australia have already reclaimed the Ashes after taking an unassailable 3-0 lead in Perth to ensure the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney are dead rubbers.
Hazlewood lamented Starc's absence but said Bird was an ideal replacement. "He's (Starc) very disappointed," Hazlewood told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday (December 24). "You do feel that extra responsibility I guess but I've played quite a few Tests without Mitch now. It feels a bit normal.
"Birdy's played a lot of cricket, Patty (Cummins) has played a fair bit now as well," he added.
In a bid to be fit for the fourth Test match in Sydney, Starc refused to drink alcohol after Australia’s famous win at Perth. However, this injury now has cut short his stint in the Ashes series with the final two matches to be played.
Bird,on the other hand, Australia's backup quick and constant 12th man, will replace Starc and play his first Test in 12 months. The Tasmanian has thrived in limited opportunities with 34 wickets from 8 Tests at an average of 27. Bird comes into the Test in red-hot form being this year's leading Sheffield Shield wicket-taker with 25 wickets at 16.56. He will form a deadly pace attack with star quicks Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.