Magellan Ashes 2017-18

Smith confirms XI for Boxing Day Test

Mitchell Starc to make way for Jackson Bird for fourth Test as the hosts eye Ashes whitewash

Louis Cameron, in Melbourne

25 December 2017, 09:13 PM

Smith confirms change for Boxing Day Test

Steve Smith has confirmed Australia will make just the one change to their XI for the Boxing Day Test, with the injured Mitchell Starc making way for fellow quick Jackson Bird.

Starc is nursing a bruised heel and while he said yesterday he felt as though he might have been able to play through it, Australia have opted against risking the pace spearhead for the fourth Magellan Ashes Test against England at the MCG.

With the hosts holding an unassailable 3-0 series lead, Bird comes into the side for his ninth Test since making his debut in 2012 and for the first time since last year's Boxing Day Test against Pakistan.

The Bird-Starc swap is the only change to the Australia side that defeated England by an innings and 41 runs to regain the Ashes in the third Test in Perth.

Australia XI: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird. 

Peter Handscomb has been released from the squad to play for Melbourne Stars in their KFC Big Bash League game against Perth Scorchers at the WACA on Boxing Day. The Victorian will rejoin the squad on day three of the Test.

Smith said Bird, the leading JLT Sheffield Shield wicket taker with 25 scalps at 16.56 in four games for Tasmania this season, deserves his chance.

Warner on new-look line-up for Boxing Day

"He's worked very hard. He hasn't played since this game last year and he's been on a few tours," Smith told reporters on Christmas day.

"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."

Bird has been on seven overseas Test tours and has played in only two of them, most recently being overlooked during series in India and Bangladesh.

On both subcontinental trips, Bird earned selection in Australia's original touring party before being leapfrogged by bowlers outside the squad.

In India, Pat Cummins was recalled for the third and fourth Tests while in Bangladesh, spinner Stephen O'Keefe was whisked in as Australia fielded a rare three-pronged spin attack for the second match in Chittagong.

Despite that, Smith said Bird had never complained.

'I hope he takes five ands sticks it up them'

"The selectors have spoken to him, particularly when Patty Cummins came in in India," the skipper continued.

"It's tough at the time but he's taken every bit of advice and every bit of criticism.

"He's been fantastic around the group the whole time. Never complained, never whinged, just got on with the job and that shows great character." 

Bird on Saturday said he's itching to go for the marquee Test.

"I felt like the ball came out really nicely in those couple of weeks that I was away," Bird said.

"I haven't played a Test match since this game last year, so I've been ready to go for about 12 months now."

Handscomb meanwhile remains sidelined after losing his spot to allrounder Mitchell Marsh for the WACA Test.

An occasional wicketkeeper, Handscomb donned the gloves and performed some drills behind the stumps on Saturday after Tim Paine's arrival into Melbourne was delayed due to personal reasons.

But Paine joined his teammates at training on Sunday, clearing the way for him to take his place in the side on Boxing Day.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: 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.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21