Starc firming to play in Sydney 'Pink' Test

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By 2018-01-03

A recovering Mitchell Starc has a strong chance to return to Australia's team for the fifth Ashes Test at the SCG, though he would be doing so over the objections of the former spearhead Glenn McGrath, who believes the left-arm quick should only resume bowling when he is "100% fit".

Having failed to recover from a bruised heel in time to take part in the Boxing Day Test, Starc bowled off his full run for about 30 minutes in the SCG nets on Tuesday, and is clearly eager to front up on his home ground alongside fellow New South Welshmen Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon. The captain Steven Smith, meanwhile, took a rare day off the nets due to some back soreness but is expected to be fine to play.

With nearly two months between this match and the first of Australia's tour of South Africa, Starc has the opportunity for a break in between, even if he is named in the squad for the ODI series against England. The announcement is due on Wednesday.

McGrath, who was famously averse to any sort of resting or management during his long and durable career, said he would prefer to see Australia be cautious with Starc, given the niggardly nature of heel injuries and the looming South African assignment.

"You want him playing but you want him at 100% and you want to make sure next series he's ready to go at 100%, so if Starcy's not 100% I'd be tempted to rest him, unfortunately for the Sydney public," McGrath said. "They want to see him performing on his home ground and he wants to be out there as well, but you've got to think 'ok, South Africa's important', so we'll wait and see. "As a player you want to play every game, you really only think about the next game and do whatever you can to get through it. When you've got important series, South Africa coming up, Australia have won this series here, he's such an integral part of the Australian line-up. I think they missed him in Melbourne more so bowling to the tail, because the pace and the lengths he bowls, he can clean up a tail pretty quickly."

The SCG strip, part of a natural wicket block as opposed to the MCG's drop-in surface, is another factor for the selectors, as its extra live grass may be more helpful to Jackson Bird, who had little joy when replacing Starc in Melbourne. How much the wicket is shaved and whether it dries out much more ahead of Thursday's coin toss will also determine whether Ashton Agar becomes a serious chance to join Lyon in a dual spin attack.

Cummins, who is expected to play his first Test on his home ground, said Starc's heel was showing good signs in that it had not worsened at all since the first time the left-armer experienced pain, as opposed to the more serious ailment Cummins had suffered during his 2011 Test debut in Johannesburg. But he agreed that it would not be wise to risk Starc's ability to take part in South Africa.

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