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Australia have been hit by the news Mitchell Starc is set to miss the return Ashes series Down Under because of a back injury.
The 23-year-old was Australia’s third highest wicket-taker during the recent Ashes series in England and he will be a big loss to the Baggy Greens.
Starc has an early stage stress fracture of the lower back and Cricket Australia are taking no chances on him, confirming he will be out of action for a ‘prolonged period’.
The news comes as another blow to Australia, who also have concerns over fellow bowlers Jackson Bird, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris and Pat Cummins.
Cummins has not played a Test since 2011 after suffering from back problems and has also been ruled out of the Ashes series, although fellow paceman Bird should be fit.
Back injuries are common in young fast bowlers and Pattinson, who was sent back to Australia after the opening two Tests in England, is now facing a race against time to be fit.
“While it’s a disappointing result for Mitch, we know he will bounce back,” said Cricket Australia general manager Pat Howard.
“Starc, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins are all under 24 years of age and we are certainly well aware that until fast bowlers get into their mid-20s they are more susceptible to injury.”
Meanwhile, Harris is struggling with a hamstring injury picked up in the fifth Test at the Oval and having the 33-year-old fit will be crucial to Australia’s chances of bouncing back.