Mitchell Starc has withdrawn from the Boxing Day Test with a stinging message for England: why question our depth when you haven't taken 20 Australian wickets all Ashes series?
Having confirmed that a bruised heel had not healed enough to be 100% in time for the MCG match, meaning he has played only one such fixture over the past seven summers, Starc rounded on the provocative comments of England's James Anderson, who had claimed that beyond him, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins "there's not much other than these three".
Jackson Bird, the tall Tasmanian seamer who will come into the team for his first match in a year, will be eager to challenge that assumption, but it was Starc who offered a verbal riposte as hostile as any of the bouncers he has delivered over the first three Tests, all of which Australia won to secure the Ashes in the minimum number of matches required.
"It's quite humorous actually, they haven't taken 20 wickets in the series and we have, and they're having a crack at our depth," Starc said in Melbourne. "I don't like facing Jacko in the nets so I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do to the English batters throughout this Test match. He's been awesome through Shield cricket this year, been doing it for a number of years so he definitely deserves his chance this week and I'm looking forward to it.
"I think they've got bigger things to worry about than the depth of Australian fast bowlers. Hopefully Jacko takes five-for and really shows them the depth in Australian cricket, especially in bowlers, is pretty strong, even though there's a few guys missing through injury. It's never nice missing cricket but it'd be pretty selfish for me to go into a game not 100%, especially when Jacko's waiting there and he's bowling really well. So really happy for him to get a go and hopefully he takes five-for and sticks it up those depth comments from the Poms.
"At the moment we're ahead in the series and playing some really good cricket, so if they want to keep changing their tactics whether verbally or trying to get in the media as well, for us we'll keep playing good cricket on the field, hopefully it'll be 4-0 by the end of the week and they won't have too much else to say."
There was also a further rejoinder from Starc about England's suggestions, made first to the umpires in Brisbane and this week raised again in a column by the former captain Mike Atherton, that the umpires needed to consider the number of short-pitched deliveries they were allowing the Australian pacemen to bowl at the touring tail, relative to the game's laws about dangerous bowling.
Would have been selfish to go in underdone - Starc
Australia bowler Mitchell Starc discusses his decision to withdraw from the Boxing Day Test due to a bruised heel
"It's Test match cricket," Starc said. "I'm pretty sure our guys have copped enough bouncers and we haven't whinged about it yet, so as far as I know our bowlers will keep bouncing their batters. From the start of the series we set out with some really good plans and they've worked through the series so far.
"So we may have tinkered with a few of those but the plan to the tail has always been the same, bowl very aggressively, fast, get up in their nose and have them jumping around. We're pretty happy with how our plans are going, we're 3-0 up, that'll continue during this Test match and hopefully by the end of the week it's 4-0.
"It's still a plan, [Bird] still bowls quick enough, pretty sure he still bowls quicker than the Pom bowlers as well. He's bowling really well, he's taken a lot of wickets in Shield cricket, he's been bowling fantastic in the nets, he's been awesome around the team, so he thoroughly deserves his chance."
Though Starc had clearly hoped to play, he admitted that in the end it was important that he did not allow the bruised heel to worsen into the sort of injury that cost Pat Cummins a full international summer in 2011-12. "There's always a risk. Going by the scan it was a good result, the bone and the plantar fascia is all good there, it's just a deep bruise of the fat pad," Starc sad.
"It's never nice missing a game, but if we pushed through it there was always a chance that it could've gotten worse, something like Pat Cummins had six or seven years ago and he was out for four or five months. Things come into it when you play through injuries, but that's not the case this week. When you're bowling with nine times your bodyweight going through your front foot it can be a bit sore bowling every ball.
"But both our other quicks, Joshy [Hazlewood] and Patty [Cummins] have been through it before. It's not a nice one, it doesn't sound like much but it can hang around for a while from all reports. Some heal quicker than others, others tend to hang around for a period of time, so that's probably played a little bit on the conversations over the last couple of days, making sure that it isn't something that keeps me out for 10 more games, it's more a one fixture sort of thing. Hopefully it's all good in the next few days and I can prepare for Sydney."
Melbourne has seen little of Starc in Test matches over his career, though he was centre stage for the 2015 World Cup final. "One out of seven years isn't very good, but it's nice that we've won the series and we've played it a little bit safer I guess now and I might get another Boxing Day one day," he said. "I still feel like I could've played on it, but it would've been pretty selfish if I'd gone into a game underdone and put those other guys under pressure if I had to pull out midway through a game.
"So I think commonsense prevailed there, Jacko's ready to go and he's bowling really well, so excited for him to have a go. It gives me a good chance now to have a bit of time off it over the next few days to get my rehab done and give me a really good chance for Sydney. That's definitely not out of the question so it's a few days now to let it heal by itself, watch the boys do the business here in Melbourne then get ready for Sydney."