Pucovski injury complicates selection plan

Rob Forsaith
·3-min read

Australia will give Will Pucovski every chance to prove his fitness for the fourth Test as they seek to quickly refocus on the series decider after an ineffectual and irritable finish at the SCG.

The hosts were driving the third Test from the moment Tim Paine won the toss.

But India dominated day five of the contest, threatening to haul in a record-breaking target of 407 before settling for a draw and successfully negotiating the final session without losing a single wicket.

Paine's tactics and tetchiness are attracting a level of criticism rarely seen since the wicketkeeper was appointed captain after the Cape Town cheating scandal and proceeded to march Australia up the Test rankings.

Australia's gun quicks are likely to be on very light duties at training before the winner-takes-all series finale starts at the Gabba on Friday.

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are expected to back up despite the short turnaround, with a potential debut for Michael Neser on the cards if there is a late rethink from selectors or medicos.

It's understood James Pattinson, who hurt his ribs during a fall at home after the Boxing Day Test, has not linked up with the squad in Brisbane.

Coach Justin Langer is expected to lean towards backing the incumbent XI to get the job done against an injury-riddled India, who will reportedly be without spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.

But that may not be an option depending on whether Pucovski can show he is up to batting in the nets, having suffered a shoulder subluxation while diving in the field at the SCG.

A team spokesperson said Pucovski will continue to rest and rehabilitate over the next two days before a decision is made on his fitness for the fourth Test.

David Warner is still recovering from a groin injury and the hosts may be reluctant to pick two restricted players.

Nobody has been called into the squad, leaving Travis Head, Marcus Harris and Moises Henriques as the contenders to replace Pucovski if selectors are forced to make a change.

Returning to the Gabba, where Australia haven't lost a Test since 1988, should boost the confidence of Paine's team.

"We played pretty good cricket (at the SCG), probably our best cricket of the series and gave us every chance to win that Test," Paine said.

"We go to the Gabba knowing we have played a pretty good Test.

"We need to make a few small tweaks and, if we do, then again we'll be right in it to win the Gabba Test on day five."

Paine defended Nathan Lyon, who celebrates his 100th Test this week and needs four scalps to bring up 400 Test wickets, after he failed to spin Australia to victory in Sydney.

"It (the pitch) didn't break up as much as a normal SCG wicket," Paine said.

"But I thought Nathan's efforts to try and win that game were sensational ... his bowling was fantastic."