Australian paceman Jackson Bird has suffered an injury scare that will deprive him of valuable match practice with a red ball before the Test tour of South Africa.
Bird jarred his back playing for the Melbourne Stars against the Hobart Hurricanes last week and, although he is still expected to fly to Johannesburg with the bulk of the Test squad on Wednesday, he has been withdrawn from a state second XI game in which he was meant to limber up for the series against the Proteas alongside Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris.
Bird has not played a first-class game since the Durham Ashes Test in August.
Bird's place in the second XI match - for Western Australia against Queensland at Allan Border Field from Monday - will be taken by James Pattinson.
Pattinson was omitted from the Australian team to play England in the final ODI at Adelaide Oval on Australia Day. "James was not going to play in the final ODI here in Adelaide so we have taken this opportunity to give him some red ball cricket prior to his departure for South Africa," coach Darren Lehmann said.
Neither Bird or Pattinson is expected to play in the first Test at Centurion unless there is an injury to the Ashes-winning attack of Mitchell Johnson, Harris and Siddle.
But Bird's soreness is a worry given he has this summer returned from a stress fracture in his back. He told Fairfax Media in November that the stress injury was a recurrenceof an old fracture that didn't heal properly when he was 19, and that he would have to manage it for the rest of his career.
"Jackson Bird jarred his back whilst diving in the field for the Melbourne Stars on Tuesday night which has resulted in some back soreness," team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said of the latest setback. "As such, he has been withdrawn from the second XI fixture whilst he receives treatment ahead of his departure for South Africa."
Bird has made a successful comeback in the BBL and is second on the tournament's wicket-taking list behind Brisbane's Cameron Gannon, with 13 wickets at 14.46 in seven games.
There is just one tour match, against a South African invitational XI at Potchefstroom, before the first Test against the world No.1.