|Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground Date: 26-30 December Time: 23:30 GMT (25-29 December)|
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Australia coach Justin Langer has suggested Mitchell Starc will play in a third Ashes Test in quick succession, but Josh Hazlewood will again miss out with a minor side strain.
Starc, 31, has bowled more than 75 overs in the series and felt twinges in his back during the second Test.
Captain Pat Cummins should return for the third Test, and Victoria’s Scott Boland has been added to the squad.
“It’s nice to have this nursery of bowlers,” said Langer.
Australia lead the five-Test series 2-0 after an empathic 275-run win in the second Test in Adelaide followed a nine-wicket victory in the opening Test in Brisbane.
Avoiding defeat in the famous Boxing Day Test in Melbourne will mean Langer’s side retain the Ashes after a 2-2 draw in England in 2019 and a 4-0 win down under in 2017.
Starc took 6-80 in Adelaide, but bowled 43.1 overs, just days after bowling 32 in the first Test.
“Mitch Starc was almost the man of the match last game,” said Langer. “He’s an unbelievable athlete and he’s incredibly fit.
“His resilience to come back over and over again, the way he controlled the tempo of the game, is a credit to him. He became the leader of the attack.
“I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t get up for Boxing Day.”
Hazlewood, who was injured during the first Test, lives in Sydney but will spend Christmas in Melbourne.
Langer said that was the player’s choice because he had already made plans to spend the holiday with his partner’s family, not because there would be a late bid to get him ready to play.
Cummins – the third of Australia’s prominent fast-bowling trio – will certainly return and will resume his new job as captain after missing the second Test at late notice because he was a Covid-19 close contact.
“I found out at midnight about Patty Cummins and what was happening,” said Langer, who has took over as coach in May 2018.
“I really liked how everyone stayed calm and got on with their process, their role within the team.”
Langer also gave his backing to opener Marcus Harris, who has scored just 38 runs across his four innings in the series – the fewest of any specialist batter from either side.
“He’ll play in the Test, no worries about that,” said Langer.
“This is his home ground. He hasn’t made the runs that he would have liked, but he’s dominated domestic cricket. So he can play. He showed glimpses of it in Test cricket so far.
“We’re hopeful that he’ll keep kicking on and keep getting better. He’s not far off.
“We want an opening partnership for the long term, not the short term. We’ve chopped and changed a lot over the last few years, and testament to that is how many opening partners Davey Warner has had.”