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 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 all-rounder 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.
Maxwell has not given up on wearing the Baggy Green again and has a Test century on the subcontinent (against India in Ranchi in 2017) to his name.
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.
Kuhnemann has held his own in the ODI series after an eleventh-hour call-up and debut last week, and he has been keeping Queensland teammate Mitchell Swepson out of the 50-over side.
The 25-year-old nearly pulled off a miracle last-gasp victory in the fourth ODI when he hit three boundaries off the final over and came within one more blow of winning the match.
“The way he thinks through the game, the plans he’s got and the confidence in his own ability is really impressive,” Finch said of Kuhnemann.
“I did not know he had a lap (shot) until the other day when he pulled it out with a few runs to win. He’s a lovely guy who tries his heart out, he’s brilliant in the field.
“With Queensland you do not play on a huge amount of spinning wickets, so for him to continue to play on wickets that offer a bit of assistance, that will continue to seem him grow.”
Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka, 2022
June 7: Australia won first T20 by 10 wickets
June 8: Australia won second T20 by three wickets
June 11: Sri Lanka won third T20 by four wickets
Sri Lanka ODI squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Pathum Nissanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Niroshan Dickwella, Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Nithaha, Rith Theekshana, Praveen Jayawickrama, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Madushanka, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan
Australia ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc , Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
June 14: Australia won first ODI by two wickets (DLS)
June 16: Sri Lanka won second ODI by 26 runs (DLS)
June 19: Sri Lanka won third ODI by six wickets
June 21: Sri Lanka won fourth ODI by four runs
June 24: Fifth ODI, Colombo, 7pm AEST
Sri Lanka Test squad (provisional): Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Kamil Mishara, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamika Karunaratne, Ramesh Mendis, Mohamed Shiranka, Diran Madhan Kumara, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lakshitha Rasanjana, Praveen Jayawickrama, Lasith Embuldeniya, Suminda Lakshan
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
June 29 – July 3: First Test, Galle, 2.30pm AEST
July 8-12: Second Test, Galle, 2.30pm AEST
All Sri Lanka v Australia international fixtures will be screened live on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports
Australia A fixtures
Australia A squad: Scott Boland, Aaron Hardie, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nic Maddinson, Nathan McAndrew, Todd Murphy, Jimmy Peirson, Josh Philippe, Matt Renshaw, Tanveer Sangha, Mark Steketee
Sri Lanka A one-day squad: Dhananjaya de Silva (c), Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Udara, Lasith Croospulle, Oshada Fernando, Pabasara Waduge, Kamindu Mendis, Ashen Bandara, Janitha Liyanage, Sahan Arachchi, Pulina Tharanga, Dunith Wellalage, Dananjaya Lakshan, not Shiran Fernando to injury), Dilshan Madushanka, Pramod Madushan, Nishan Madushka, Ashen Daniel, Nisala Tharaka
June 8: Australia A won by seven wickets
June 10: Sri Lanka A won by four wickets
June 14-17: Australia A won by 68 runs
June 21-24: four-day match v Sri Lanka A, Hambantota