Bad break for Faulkner

A FRACTURED thumb to reserve all-rounder James Faulkner has complicated Australia's selection plans for the third Ashes Test in Perth.

Faulkner, 12th man for the first two Tests in the series, was struck on his right non-bowling hand while batting in the WACA Ground nets.

Australia captain Michael Clarke said earlier yesterday he was bracing for the bowling all-rounder to be ruled out. And scans confirmed the thumb had been fractured, ruling Faulkner out of the mix for Perth.

Clarke said Australia had not settled on its line-up to face England for both fitness and tactical reasons.

``We're going to wait until the toss, see how everybody pulls up after training yesterday and today, and it will give us another opportunity to have a look at the wicket as well,'' he said.

Australia's three incumbent pacemen _ Mitch Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle _ bowled leisurely spells in the nets yesterday. Clarke confirmed the availability of Harris after a three-day break since the end of the preceding Test was, besides Faulkner, the team's main fitness issue.

``I'm hopeful that everybody will come up,'' Clarke said.

``There's the obvious one in `Ryano', who bowled today. We're going to wait and see how he pulls up but I'm confident he'll be fine. And it gives selectors another chance just to see if the wicket changes at all tomorrow morning, but it looks like a pretty good wicket to me.''

While Clarke had confirmed one of Faulkner and standby seamers Nathan Coulter-Nile and Doug Bollinger would be promoted if Harris was unfit he insisted he was ``very confident'' the veteran would be available for his seventh consecutive Ashes Test.

Clarke said he expected England would select bowling all-rounder Tim Bresnan for the first time in the series, after recovering from a back injury, and a specialist number-six batsman _ uncapped Gary Ballance would be favoured for that role _ for the match. But he did not say who he expected would make way for them.

The captain was glowing in his praise of the preparation of the WACA Ground under new curator Matt Page.

``The ground looks in as good a condition as I've ever seen it. I believe the wicket out there looks like a better wicket than I've seen in Perth for a long time. I think the new groundsman has done a fantastic job and deserves a lot of credit,'' he said.

Despite Perth's reputation for suiting hostile fast-bowling, Clarke said he would be reluctant to send England in if he won the toss this morning.

``I'll see what the wicket's like tomorrow. I find it extremely hard to send an opposition team in in a Test match. I've always looked at batting first in a Test match because I think you give yourself every opportunity to win the game.''

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