Jackson Bird and Mitchell Starc © Getty Images
Jackson Bird and Mitchell Starc © Getty Images

Australia pace spearhead Mitchell Starc was on Sunday ruled out of fourth Ashes Test with a heel injury and will be replaced by Jackson Bird. Starc, who is Australia’s leading wicket-taker in the series with 19, bruised his heel bowling in Australia’s series-clinching third Test win in Perth last week. There wasn’t enough time for Starc to recover from the injury to his landing foot, with team management officially ruling him out two days before Tuesday’s Melbourne Test. Starc said he was hoping to return for the series-ending Sydney Test on January 4.

While Starc had been optimistic about his chances of playing, Australia’s selectors took a cautious approach with their star paceman ahead of a key Test series against South Africa early in the new year.”I think common sense prevails,” Australian selector Mark Waugh told Fox Sports. “I guess if it was 2-1 down or 2-1 up and this was a Test match we had to win you might push the envelope a bit further than when you’re 3-0 up.”Starc’s withdrawal continues his run of bad luck in the Melbourne Cricket Ground showpiece.

Starc has played in just one Boxing Day Test since making his debut in 2011. Last year Starc scored 84 with the bat and took a match-sealing four-wicket haul in a final-day win against Pakistan. Bird will now play his first Test in 12 months.”I’ve been ready to go for 12 months basically,” Bird told reporters on Saturday.

“I had a week in the Perth nets working on a few different things with bowling coach David Saker. It’d be unbelievable to play an Ashes Test on Boxing Day.” Meanwhile, wicketkeeper Tim Paine is expected to play after joining his team-mates at training on Sunday after initially remaining at home in Hobart after his father-in-law suffered a stroke.