Australia are set to be without veteran fast bowler Peter Siddle for the foreseeable future, after he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back, and could also face ankle surgery.
Siddle was laid low by back spasms in the recent first Test against New Zealand in Wellington, and thus did not play in the second Test. Scans have revealed a more serious back issue, on top of his ongoing ankle problem.
David Beakley, the Cricket Australia physio, said: "Peter returned to Melbourne on Monday and had scans following the bout of back pain he suffered during the first Test in Wellington.
"Unfortunately those scans have indicated a stress fracture in his lower back. He will now require a significant amount of time away from the game with a lengthy rehabilitation process.
"Whilst he is laid off with his current back injury, we will take the opportunity for Peter to have exploratory surgery on his left ankle to investigate and treat the cause of his ongoing ankle pain.
"Once that surgery is complete we will have a better idea of his prognosis and likely rehabilitation time frame."
Speaking of ankle injuries, paceman Mitchell Starc is on the road to recovery after his surgery, and coach Darren Lehmann hopes Starc will be back in action mid-year. Added to Siddle's injury, Starc's return will be an important one.
Lehmann said of Starc: "We're hoping he'll be available in the West Indies, part of the one-day tour there, and then full tilt at Sri Lanka [in July-August].
"That would be the goal for us and the medical team. He's going pretty well at the moment."
In the meantime, the onus falls on Josh Hazlewood to lead the attack in all formats, in Starc's absence, while James Pattinson and the like could see extended game time in Siddle's recovery is drawn out.