Australia have been handed another injury concern ahead of the Test series against Sri Lanka with Travis Head ruled out of the final ODI in Colombo due to a hamstring problem.
Head sustained the injury late in the fourth match and has just six days to recover before the first Test in Galle. If he is not available for the opening game next Wednesday, it would require Australia to rejig their middle order.
Currently, there is no specialist batting cover in the Test squad although Mitchell Marsh and Josh Inglis are both in the group. However, reinforcements could come from the Australia A team that has currently completed their tour in Hambantota. Marcus Harris was the spare batter on the Pakistan tour earlier this year but Matt Renshaw and Nic Maddinson would also be in the frame as middle-order options. It may also keep the door ajar for a Test return for Glenn Maxwell.
Mitchell Starc continues to be unavailable due to the stitching in his finger which he cut on the spike of his boot in the first T20I while Steven Smith, who has been nursing a quad strain, is unlikely to be risked ahead of the Tests.
“[It’s a] bit more of a precaution,” Aaron Finch said of Head. “Especially, where he fields in the outfield, he does quite a lot of kilometres and the ground is quite heavy. Not sure what he’s looking like for the Test matches. Just one more to add to the list at the moment. Starcy is still not right with his finger. Where it is, the stitching is still not quite 100% healed. Without being able to bowl without tape on, he’ll be out as well.”
Australia have endured a lengthy casualty list during the white-ball leg of the tour. Sean Abbott (broken finger) was ruled out before the matches began to be followed by Marsh who has since recovered from a calf strain, Kane Richardson (hamstring), Marcus Stoinis (side), and Ashton Agar (side) along with Starc and Smith.
Reflecting on the ODI series, which Sri Lanka secured with their four-run victory two days ago, Finch picked out the fact Australia had not been able to build a big partnership to take them deep into the innings with plenty of wickets in hand as a deciding factor. They have fielded a long batting order in the last two matches with Cameron Green at No. 8.
“Anytime we’ve started to get any momentum in the game, we lose a wicket and in these conditions, once you lose one, they go back-to-back pretty quick,” he said. “Think, just maximising that main partnership where you can get to the 40th over maybe three down, has hindered us a bit.”
After Friday’s final ODI, Australia’s next 50-over cricket will be the series against Zimbabwe and New Zealand starting at home in late August. Unlike these matches against Sri Lanka, those contests will carry World Cup Super League points. There remains uncertainty whether their other home series, against South Africa in January, will go ahead after CSA requested for it to be moved, so they can launch their new T20 league.