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Starc cleared of serious injury, but still in doubt for Boxing Day

Cricket

Mitchell Starc has received good news on the injury front but Australia’s spearhead may yet endure more Boxing Day heartbreak.

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Starc returned home on crutches after bowling under duress on days four and five of the WACA Test, having helped his side claim an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Ashes with a resounding victory over England.

The right foot injury was assessed in Sydney today, with the paceman cleared of serious injury.

Scans confirmed team medicos’ early diagnosis that the left-armer has a bruised heel rather than a stress fracture.

Starc will link with the 13-man squad in Melbourne on Friday but is no certainty to play the fourth Test that starts next Tuesday.

The painful injury requires rest and he has limited time to prove his fitness in the nets. 

Coach Darren Lehmann and medical staff will make the final call and they’ll be understandably cautious given Starc’s importance to the side during a Test tour of South Africa that follows the Ashes.

The risk of playing with pain-killing injections is twofold. 

Starc may do more damage to the troublesome landing foot that forced him to return prematurely from this year’s Test series in India – and miss the tour of Bangladesh – but also struggle to generate his trademark express pace and bounce.

Pat Cummins bowled with a bruised heel in Johannesburg on Test debut in 2011.

It developed into a bone stress injury and was the start of a six-year journey stacked with serious setbacks.

Glenn McGrath bowled with a bruised heel at Adelaide Oval during the 2006 Ashes Test.

He recorded 0-107 in England’s first innings, the worst figures of his decorated Test career.

Jackson Bird, having been on drinks duty throughout the series, will play his first Test of the summer if Starc misses out next week.

It would prove a bitter pill for Starc to swallow. He has played 39 Tests since debuting in 2011, but only taken part in one MCG Test because of form and fitness issues.

The Sydneysider was seething in 2012 when he was rotated out of the attack for the Boxing Day Test because of workload concerns.

More recently he has accepted that being rested from the occasional ODI is part of a paceman’s plight. 

“I’m getting used to being told what to do,” Starc said last year.

“The sheer amount of cricket we play these days, if you play every game you’re going to break down at some point, so you have to be a little bit smarter about it.”

Test cricket is a different matter. Starc has already told skipper Steve Smith he will be playing at the MCG, where Australia will seek to continue their push for a whitewash.

-AAP 

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