AUSTRALIA has named four fast bowlers for the third Test, leaving young all-rounder Glenn Maxwell as the 12th man.
A surprisingly green SCG pitch and last week’s huge victory in Melbourne means that five frontline bowlers will take the field for the home side.
Maxwell, an off-spinner and dangerous batsman, was chosen in the 13-man squad to replace injured vice-captain Shane Watson.
Given the SCG’s history of aiding spin, some thought Maxwell would make his debut batting at number seven as a second spinner with Nathan Lyon.
But instead Mitchell Starc returns to the side as the only change from the team which beat Sri Lanka in Melbourne by an innings and 201 runs last week.
This means that MCG debutant Jackson Bird keeps his place alongside fellow pacemen Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle.
Captain Michael Clarke has declared himself fit from a minor hamstring strain, leaving Usman Khawaja on standby.
The middle order will all move up one, with Clarke replacing Watson at number four, Mike Hussey moving to number five for his last Test and wicket-keeper Matthew Wade batting at six.
Johnson will bat at seven as the all-rounder after scoring 92 not out in Melbourne.
AUSTRALIAN XI FOR THIRD TEST
Michael Clarke (c), Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner. 12th man: Glenn Maxwell
Clarke claimed Australia had opted for four fast bowlers because of the amount of grass on the wicket and the way his pacemen bowled in Melbourne, where the match finished inside three days.
“Bringing Mitchell Starc back into the team obviously helps our bowling attack, particularly with the form he’s in,” Clarke said.
“And Mitchell Johnson is batting as well as an all-rounder now so I’m confident we’ve got enough batting with Matthew Wade at six.
“And we’ve got extra bowling, which is a real positive for us.”
Despite sending two Sri Lankan players to hospital with broken fingers, Clarke claimed there would not be an excess of short-pitched bowling with the four quicks.
“You can expect some good fast bowling but it doesn’t necessarily need to be short. It’s about execution,” Clarke said.
“We have plans for each individual player. Some of those plans involve short-pitched bowling but not necessarily for every player.
“I don’t think you will see anything ridiculous.”
In his column for News Ltd today, Clarke has made it clear that there is a serious debate going on around selection.
“Sydney has traditionally helped spinners so the obvious view would be for exciting young all-rounder Glenn Maxwell to make his debut,” Clarke wrote in his column for News Limited.
“But there is a surprising amount of grass on the SCG pitch and our fast bowlers did a wonderful job against Sri Lanka at the MCG to set up an innings victory inside three days.”
Despite a modest batting average of 23, Johnson has a Test century and seven half-centuries, including an impressive 92 not out at the MCG against Sri Lanka last week.
Bird is perfectly suited to grassy wickets, as he proved at the SCG with economical bowling figures of 2-32 and 2-29 on debut last week, taking important wickets each time.
Tall and with a high, easy action Bird is perfected suited to extract seam movement on helpful surfaces, as he does so regularly for Tasmania in the Sheffield Shield as the competition’s most successful bowler over the past two seasons.
The resurrection of Johnson, who will play his 50th Test, has been particularly significant given the 31-year-old spent more than a year out of the Test side.
He has 12 wickets at 20 from his two Tests this summer and will be the ideal workhorse for the tour of India next month, where he has bowled well in the past.
Watson’s absence means the middle order will be forced to move up a place.
Wicket-keeper Matthew Wade will go up to number six, Mike Hussey to five in his last Test and Clarke to four in place of Watson.
Clarke has a modest record at four and a brilliant record at five but given his exceptional form and the desire to have an all-rounder in the team long term, the Australian captain may permanently stay a place higher in the order.