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Aussies choose Bird for Melbourne Test
By Greg Buckle
15:28 AEST Mon Dec 24 2012

Australia's selectors have heaped even more pressure on Peter Siddle's shoulders by resting his in-form pace partner Mitchell Starc for the Boxing Day Test.

National coach and selector Mickey Arthur said on Monday Tasmania's Jackson Bird would be part of the final 11 for the second Test against Sri Lanka.

Starc took 5-63 in Sri Lanka's second innings as Australia claimed victory late on day five of last week's first Test in Hobart, but the NSW paceman will be rested for the MCG clash and will instead target his home Test in Sydney starting on January 3.

Australia's three-man pace attack in Melbourne will be Siddle, Bird and Mitchell Johnson, who has played only one Test in 2012 which was in Perth against South Africa in November before being dropped for the Hobart match.

However a side-strain injury suffered by Ben Hilfenhaus in Hobart - after being rested from the Perth match - and the rotation of Starc out of the team has left Johnson also with a major role to play in Melbourne.

Siddle took match figures of 9-104 in Hobart and almost bowled the home side to victory in last month's Adelaide Test against South Africa after fellow quick James Pattinson had broken down earlier in the match with a side strain.

Bird has played less than two full seasons of Sheffield Shield cricket but has dominated the competition.

"He swings the ball out. He brings some nice pace," Arthur said.

Starc was very disappointed after being told he would be rested, Arthur said.

"Mitch is our one quick bowler who stars in all three forms of the game," Arthur said.

"We've got to be very mindful of the fact that 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."

Australia host Sri Lanka and West Indies for one-day series in January and February, ahead of a Test tour of India.

Michael Clarke batted in the nets on Monday as the skipper continues in his bid to prove his fitness following last week's hamstring strain in Hobart.

Arthur says Clarke's fitness is improving day by day.

"If I was a betting man I'd bet on Michael Clarke leading the team out on Boxing Day," Arthur said.

"We've got to be mindful as well, much like the Mitchell Starc decision, as to the amount of important cricket we've got coming up.

"We'll just be guided by what Alex (team physio Alex Kountouris) and Michael jointly say."

Former Test No.3 Usman Khawaja is on standby for Clarke.

While Clarke is spending his evenings icing his right leg, Bird will be hoping to get a good night's sleep after sitting on the news on Sunday that he was going to make his Test debut.

"I haven't really told many people," Bird said on Monday.

"I probably should go and call my parents after this. My mum has got a pretty big mouth when it comes to that sort of stuff so I'm not sure who she would have told yesterday.

"I'll try to sleep. Last night was a bit of a restless sleep.

"It's going to be a blast to be a part of it.

"I've got a pretty good record here at the MCG as well."


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