Arthur backs Bird to shine
Australia coach Mickey Arthur has backed uncapped paceman Jackson Bird to justify his selection in the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka.
Bird has been given the nod over Mitchell Starc, who has been controversially rested despite starring in the first Test in Hobart.
Starc bowled his country to victory with figures of five for 63 in the second innings at Blundstone Arena as Sri Lanka's efforts to gain a draw fell just short.
Bird will team up with left-armer Mitchell Johnson at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the hosts look to claim an unassailable lead in the three-match series.
"We've got a lot of faith in Jackson," Arthur said of the 26-year-old, who has taken 80 Sheffield Shield wickets for Tasmania in 14 matches at an average of 17.5.
"At the start of the summer we had a list of bowlers that we wanted to keep fresh and ready to go and Jackson was one of them.
"He was one of them for the simple reason that he brings everything that we want...pace, he brings swing and consistency.
"He's done it all. We've got no issues about throwing the new ball to him."
Bird flanked Arthur at today's press conference and declared he was excited to make his debut in front of a big crowd in Melbourne.
"I feel like I'm ready for Test cricket," Bird said.
"It's (taking the new ball) nothing different to what I've done in first-class cricket...I suppose there's going to be a few more people there on Boxing Day, but that's something I'm going to have to deal with. I'm just looking forward to it really."
Arthur said that although Starc was not pleased to miss out on the Boxing Day Test, keeping him fit was vitally important going forward.
"That's a real tough decision to make, it's a tough conversation with Mitch," he said.
"He's clearly very disappointed and I wouldn't expect anything other than that. We've just got to look and see the amount of cricket we've got going forward. Mitch is integral to that.
"Mitch is our one quick bowler that plays in all three forms of the game. We've got to be very mindful of the fact that we've got such a lot of cricket coming up."
Australia captain Michael Clarke was also included in the 12-man squad after passing a fitness test on a hamstring injury.
"He's clearly improving," Arthur said. "He went far better today than he did yesterday. If I was a betting man I'd bet on Michael Clarke leading the team out on Boxing Day."
Sri Lanka will look to turn in an improved batting display at the MCG after being bundled out for 255 in pursuit of a victory target of 393 in Hobart.
One player who is hoping to do better is Angelo Mathews. Mathews made 74 in the first innings in the opening Test but contributed just 19 in a disappointing second knock.
The 25-year has been an impressive performer for Sri Lanka since making his Test debut in 2009 but has spoken about making more centuries - he has just one to his name despite reaching 50 11 times.
"I have worked really hard with our batting coach Marvan Atapattu and recently I have been getting those 70s and 80s and I am cross with myself that I have not been able to convert them into big ones," he said.
"I don't think I am doing the team any good by scoring 70s and 80s and getting out. It's not doing much good for myself as well. I need to convert those 70s and 80s into big ones."
The Test match starts at 11.30pm GMT on Christmas Day.