Players in firing line as Ashes in focus

RECALLED Australian quick Mitchell Starc will be under plenty of pressure to perform against India in the fourth Test at the SCG starting today.

Starc will replace fellow left-armer Mitchell Johnson who failed to recover from hamstring soreness he sustained in the drawn Boxing Day Test.

The Sydneysider has played 14 Tests spanning nine series since making his debut against New Zealand in 2011, taking 45 wickets at an average of 36.22.

Starc was criticised by Test legend Shane Warne for having "soft" body language in the second Test of the series in Brisbane, but stand-in Australian skipper Steve Smith backed the 24-year-old's recall after impressive performances for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League, where he reached speeds of more than 150kmh.

"The way we've seen Mitch go back into the Big Bash, it looks like he's bowled exceptionally quick," Smith said.

"If he sustains that for long periods, and if he keeps that type of pace up throughout the whole day he's going to be an extremely amazing bowler."

Starc edged out Peter Siddle for the spot, and with emerging quicks like James Pattinson and Pat Cummins back after injury, Siddle's career in the baggy green may have come to an end.

Despite having already wrapped up the series, Starc will not be the only Australian player in the spotlight in Sydney as selectors watch the match with one eye on the two-Test series against the West Indies in June and the Ashes which start in Cardiff the following month.

Queenslander Joe Burns has been given another chance after posting 13 and nine on debut in Melbourne, but if he fails again he could follow the path taken by predecessors Rob Quiney and Alex Doolan and find himself on the outer.

Also under pressure is all-rounder Shane Watson who has been given the all-clear after being sent home from training on Sunday with a stomach bug.

The 33-year-old has averaged just 35.49 in his 55 Tests, and picked up 71 wickets at 33.36.

On their own, neither are good enough to justify his inclusion in the side.

Watson's half century in the Boxing Day Test was his only 50 of 2014, and he has the added problem of having the talented Mitchell Marsh nipping at his heels.

Two other players closer to the end of their careers than the start are wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and opener Chris Rogers.

The 37-year-olds have not been in great form with the bat, but are expected to make themselves available for the Ashes.



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