Steven Smith has dispelled doubts about his fitness ahead of Australia’s first Test against Sri Lanka, but Mitchell Starc but still faces a crucial lead-in to overcome a finger injury.
The two stars of Australia’s last tour to Sri Lanka, Smith and Starc, headline a long injury list for the tourists ahead of the opening Test in Galle on Wednesday.
Travis Head is also battling to play after a hamstring strain with Glenn Maxwell waiting in the wings, while Ashton Agar’s side strain has cost him a potential Test recall.
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But there is good news, at least for Smith and his quad injury after he missed the past three ODIs in the country where he scored a Test century during Australia’s most recent tour in 2016.
“If we were still playing one-day cricket, I would be touch and go, but Test cricket, I will be fine,” Smith told AAP. “Test cricket is a bit easier [on the quad].
“I field in the slips, won’t be doing a great deal of running around in the field. And then in these conditions, there’s not a lot of hard running.
“They usually have a few sweepers, and it’s four or one quite often. So there’s not a heap of hard running.”
Starc has not played since cutting his finger in the first T20I match more than two weeks ago. He has since had stitches removed and bowled at full pace in the nets with tape applied.
He had planned to bowl for the first time without the strapping on Sunday afternoon, but instead had some minor taping on his left index finger as he ran in for about 20 minutes.
Match officials have dictated that Starc cannot enter the game with his bowling hand taped up, unless he cuts it again during play.
Even in that event Starc has found it difficult to grip the ball down the seam in training, meaning he will want to bowl without the taping before Wednesday.
“We have tried to give it as long as we could, because it is in probably the worst spot,” he said. “It’s where the ball comes off last. It’s certainly not to my advantage [bowling with tape on], because it takes away from my grip. “
Agar’s injury is also a spanner in the works for Australia. Fingerspin has traditionally been more effective than wristspin in Galle, with Australia opting to keep Jon Holland and Matthew Kuhnemann around as back-ups.
Selectors had not ruled out using the legspin of Mitchell Swepson, but coach Andrew McDonald indicated Agar was in serious contention to play his first Test since 2017 before the injury.
Agar remains in the squad and is hopeful of being fit for the second Test, also in Galle, starting on July 8.
“A lot of the suggestions from around the traps is that finger spin tends to work better here than wrist spin,” McDonald said. “But it’s not to say wrist spin can’t work.
“We’re not as clear if we were to go with a finger spinner [on who it would be] as we would have been with Ashton. We feel like Ash would have given us good control, and that would have been a positive for the team if he was selected.”