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Aussies to give debut to a Bird

lMELBOURNE

Paceman Jackson Bird has been handed an early Christmas present after being named to make his debut for Australia in the second Test against Sri Lanka starting in Melbourne, tonight, Caribbean time.

Bird, the leading wicket-taker in the domestic Sheffield Shield, will take the new ball in front of a bumper crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day as Australia seek to seal the three-match series 2-0.

"I got the call from Mickey yesterday to say that I'm in the final 11," Bird told reporters at the MCG yesterday, referring to Australia coach Mickey Arthur.

"So yeah, it's very exciting and I'm looking forward to it.

"In the last 18 months I've been pretty successful in first-class cricket.

"I suppose I've got a pretty good record here at the MCG as well, and I guess there's always an element of luck in there as well. There's a few injuries going around.

"In saying that I feel like I'm ready for test cricket and hopefully I can repay the faith in Mickey and the selectors."

Australia will rest 22-year-old paceman Mitchell Starc as part of the team's controversial rotation policy, following a raft of injuries that have gutted their pace bowling stocks.

Starc, who took a five-wicket haul to help Australia secure a final-hour victory in the first test in Hobart, was disappointed with the decision, Arthur said.

"That's a real tough decision to make. It's a tough conversation with Mitch. He took it very, very well," Arthur said.

"(He's) clearly very disappointed and we wouldn't expect anything other than that."

Starc's omission sees Mitchell Johnson recalled to the side after he was dropped following the third and final test against South Africa, which Australia lost by 309 runs to concede the series 1-0.

Johnson replaces Ben Hilfenhaus, who broke down during the Hobart test and joined James Pattinson and Pat Cummins on the sidelines with a raft of other injured fast bowlers.

Only Peter Siddle, who took nine wickets in a man-of-the-match performance at Hobart, has been retained in the pace attack, with Australia forced to re-shuffle their fast bowlers for a third consecutive Test.

Australia captain Michael Clarke continued to be rated a "50-50" chance of playing after suffering a hamstring strain during the Hobart Test but would be given until the last minute to prove his fitness, Arthur added.

"If I was a betting man I would bet on Michael Clarke being in the team on Boxing Day," he said.

Batsman Usman Khawaja remains on stand-by to replace Clarke.

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