Steve Smith has dispelled doubts about his fitness ahead of Australia’s first Test against Sri Lanka but Mitchell Starc 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 hoping to play after a hamstring strain with Glenn Maxwell waiting in the wings, but his chances have been boosted by completing a net session on Sunday.
Ashton Agar’s side strain meanwhile has cost him a potential Test recall, with the finger-spinner racing the clock to be fit for the second Test.
But there is good news at least for Smith and his quad injury after he missed the past three ODIs.
The right-hander did not train on Sunday with a head cold, but is certain his quad injury will be OK for Wednesday.
“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 Twenty20 match more than two weeks ago.
He has since had stitches removed and bowled at full pace in the nets with tape applied.
The Allan Border Medallist 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 the left-armer 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,” Starc 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.
Finger spin has traditionally been more effective than wrist spin on the dry Galle wicket, with Australia opting to keep Jon Holland and Matt Kuhnemann around.
Selectors had not ruled out using the wrist spin of Mitchell Swepson, but coach Andrew McDonald indicated Agar was in serious contention to play his first Test since 2017 before the injury.
“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.”