Head ruled out of fifth ODI, under cloud for first Test

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A third member of Australia’s incumbent Test team has been injured during the Sri Lanka limited-overs matches with Travis Head nursing a hamstring blow that has put his availability for the tour’s climax under a cloud.

With Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc still sidelined, Head will sit out Friday’s final limited-overs match of the tour after sustaining a low-grade right hamstring injury while fielding in the fourth ODI in Colombo.

Head has been used in the outfield in the one-dayers, clocking up 26km on the heavy R.Premadasa Stadium ground over the past two matches, which contributed to the injury.

The strain is on the minor end but the Test No.5 now appears in some doubt for Wednesday’s series opener in Galle, which is less than a week away.

“It’s a bit more of a precaution, especially with where he fields,” white-ball captain Aaron Finch said of Head’s omission for the dead rubber fifth one-dayer.

“He fields in the outfield and the ground is quite heavy and he does a lot of Ks. I’m not sure what he’ll be like for the Tests but he’s definitely not available for tomorrow.”

It is the latest in a series of injury headaches for the Aussies, who look set to keep either Matthew Kuhnemann or Jon Holland as a left-arm orthodox option for the Test series given Ashton Agar is also out of action with a side strain.

The Aussies do not have a reserve batter in the Test squad, with allrounder Mitch Marsh and wicketkeeper Josh Inglis the middle-order options outside the XI they fielded in Pakistan earlier this year.

Neither Starc, whose left index finger is still recovering after having stitches removed, nor Smith, who has had a quad niggle, will return for the fifth ODI with Sri Lanka up 3-1 in the series.

The fact both trained with the red ball on Tuesday in the nets – Starc bowed at full pace, albeit with tape on his finger, while Smith had an extended bat – suggested their attention has squarely shifted to the Tests.

Head’s injury could open the door for one of the Australia A squad, currently in Hambantota playing a final four-dayer against Sri Lanka A, to stay on as cover for the Tests, with Marcus Harris, Matthew Renshaw and Nic Maddinson the leading contenders.

White-ball star Glenn Maxwell would be a left-field option, with Australia’s head selector George Bailey saying recently the door is not closed on his Test career despite him having not played a first-class match in close to three years.

Josh Inglis could be in line to make his ODI debut as a replacement for Head, or Australia could re-jig the balance of their XI and field an extra bowler.