Starc 'ready' to go says Smith, Agar likely to sit out
Pace spearhead Mitchell Starc is in line to return to Australia's bowling line-up with second spinner Ashton Agar unlikely to play in Thursday's final Ashes Test against England.
Captain Steve Smith said Starc was "ready to go" after bowling this week in the nets after missing the drawn fourth Melbourne Test with a bruised heel.
"Starcy has pulled up pretty well this morning and he says he's ready to go. I guess that's a good indication," Smith told reporters on Wednesday.
Agar's chances of playing in his fifth Test, bowling in spin tandem with Nathan Lyon, have also been downgraded with extra grass on the Sydney Cricket Ground pitch.
"The wicket's got a fair bit of grass and looks to be a pretty good wicket," Smith said.
"I'd say we'll probably opt for just the one spinner. Nathan's done a terrific job throughout this series and I'd say we'll go down that route."
Australia have already clinched the Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-Test series ahead of the Sydney finale.
Left-armer Starc is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 19 despite only playing three Tests and will boost Australia's pace attack after he missed out in Melbourne, giving way to Jackson Bird who went wicketless.
Smith, who has dominated the series with three centuries in his tally of 604 runs in six innings at an astonishing average of 151, has been troubled this week by a sore back, but said he will play.
"A little bit stiff but nothing I haven't dealt with before," Smith said.
"I'll have a good hit today, a catch, and I'll be fine tomorrow."
Smith has spent more than 31 hours at the batting crease against England in this series, becoming Australia's first captain to score 600 or more runs in an Ashes campaign since Don Bradman.
The 604 runs Smith has scored is the fourth-most by a captain in an Ashes series, with the 810 Bradman scored in 1936-37 the high mark.
Another century in Sydney will see him join Bradman, Herbert Sutcliffe and Wally Hammond as the only men to score four hundreds in the same Ashes series.
The Australia skipper averages 63.55 in his 60 Tests which places him only behind Bradman's pinnacle of 99.94.
Woakes out for England, Crane to make Test debut
Seamer Chris Woakes has been ruled out with a side strain opening the way for young leg-spinner Mason Crane to make his debut for England in Thursday's final Ashes Test against Australia.
England skipper Joe Root confirmed 20-year-old Crane will play following the injury set-back to Woakes.
Woakes had scans on his injured left side on Wednesday and was ruled out of the Sydney Test as the tourists seek to win their first Test win of the series.
The Warwickshire paceman missed a significant part of England's home season after straining his side during last year's Champions Trophy and pulled up sore after last week's fourth Melbourne Test.
Woakes has taken 10 wickets at 49.5 in the four Tests and scored just 114 runs through seven innings batting number eight at an average of 16.28.
But he is a key member of England's limited overs sides -- and with both a one-day international series and a Twenty20 tri-series to follow over the next month, England are not prepared to risk him.
"More than anything it's making sure he's not out for a significant period of time like he was throughout the summer," Root told reporters on Wednesday.
"It gives him another week to get himself right and hopefully that's the case and he's fit and ready to go when those games come around."
Crane, who has made two Twenty20 appearances, comes into the Test having taken five wickets for New South Wales at the SCG last year while playing Sydney club cricket.
"The way he went about those Twenty20s shows he is right up for international cricket and he's not someone that is going to back down from any challenge," Root said.
"He's performed very well when he's had his opportunities on this trip."
England coach Trevor Bayliss this week indicated Crane was in line to debut when he told reporters: "There's maybe no time like the present to find out.
"We think he's a guy that has got the goods, and the more he plays at this level the better he will get. You've got to start somewhere."
The injury to Woakes is likely to give the out-of-sorts Moeen Ali another chance.
Moeen has played 48 Tests and came to Australia as an accomplished all-rounder but he has under-performed, taking only three wickets and averaging 19 with the bat.