Mitchell Starc has been suffering hamstring tightness but will play on in the final Test. Picture: Getty
Mitchell Starc has been suffering hamstring tightness but will play on in the final Test. Picture: Getty

Australia will risk Starc injury to save match

AUSTRALIA'S most prized bowling asset Mitchell Starc is suffering hamstring tightness on the eve of the summer but medical staff will look to nurse him through the rest of the deciding Test against Pakistan.

Starc is experiencing tightness in his left hamstring and a decision has been made by selectors to keep Peter Siddle in the UAE as cover for next week's Twenty20 series.

However, in the immediate term Australia say they're comfortable Starc can continue playing out the match.

All eyes will be on how much Starc can contribute with the ball when play resumes on day three, with the big fast bowler now walking a delicate tightrope with the summer just weeks away.

Australia simply cannot afford to have Starc ruled out for any substantial period of time given how indispensable he will be for the key Test series against India and next year's bumper schedule of World Cup and Ashes.

Aaron Finch moved to play down injury fears Australia tried to manage Starc on day two.

Starc bowled only one four-over spell out of the 44 overs Australia had at Pakistan, and wasn't seen at all in the final session, grabbing at his left hamstring on occasions.

Perhaps most bizarre was the sight of him reverting to the slips in between his few overs of bowling and then in the period that followed.

Starc also practised slip fielding in drills before the day's play and finished the day in the field to suggest if there is an issue it's not a major one.

Mitchell Starc plays a shot during the second Test. Picture: AFP
Mitchell Starc plays a shot during the second Test. Picture: AFP

Finch said post-match that the tactic was part of a bid to "manage" the workload of the big left-arm destroyer who suffered severe cramping in the first Test in Dubai.

"As far as I know he is (OK). He bowled with enough pace today," said Finch, who top scored for Australia with 39 on a horror day.

"The quicks didn't bowl a huge amount. As far as I know he is (fit to bowl on day three).

"It's just a bit of management of Mitch out there. Obviously the conditions are pretty hot, so trying to look after the fast bowler."

Starc left the field for a short interval in the last session but returned a short-term later and fielded in outfield positions where chasing balls to the boundary were required.

Pace bowling partner Peter Siddle only bowled six overs himself.

Getting called up as shadow for the T20 squad is a reward for Siddle who had a bumper Big Bash last summer with the championship winning Adelaide Strikers.

Pakistan debut star Fakhar Zaman (66) said he felt the pitch was better suited to Nathan Lyon and spin and wasn't surprised Starc didn't play a role in the final session.

But despite that assessment of the wicket, Australia have been completely out bowled not by Pakistan's spin contingent but by 130km/h medium pacer Mohammad Abbas.

Abbas has already taken 12 wickets in one and a half Test innings at a breathtaking average of just nine runs per scalp.

His five-wicket haul cut a swath through Australia's batsmen who were skittled for just 145.

Mitchell Starc is the strike weapon Australia can’t afford to be without over the Aussie summer. Picture: Getty
Mitchell Starc is the strike weapon Australia can’t afford to be without over the Aussie summer. Picture: Getty

Australia desperately need Starc and Peter Siddle to find the areas and seam that Abbas has exploited.

"All in all we've bowled pretty well in patches. The simplicity of his plan to just bowl at the stumps with nice straight fields, limit your scoring, that's been his real strength," said Finch.

"I think at times we've done that really well for periods and at times we've leaked a few.

"Our plans have still been good and that's a little bit of execution at times.

" … When you've got guys who are a little bit quicker than him and looking for a little more out of the wicket I think that can happen, you go searching a touch more.

"He's just very simple, very good, but nothing we can't overcome in the second dig."

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