By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Vice captain Matt Prior has been ruled out of England's last tour match before the start of the Ashes series due to a calf tear but the tourists are confident he will be fit to play in next week's first test in Brisbane.
Wicketkeeper Prior, who sustained the injury in the match against Australia A in Hobart on Saturday, has a "low grade" tear to his left calf so will not feature in this week's match against an Invitational XI, a team official said.
"It's disappointing, Matt is a key part of our success over the years and obviously we want him to get recovered as quick as possible," Prior's team mate Ian Bell told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Monday.
"There's still a bit of time (before the first test), Matt's got himself into fantastic shape for this tour and he'll be really good with his rehab and I've got every faith he'll be fully fit for Brisbane.
"It gives someone else an opportunity, and it'll be good for Jonny Bairstow to get out there with the gloves on in an England shirt."
Back-up wicketkeeper Bairstow played as a lower order batsman in four of the matches in the first Ashes series of the year but Bell did not think he had much chance of dislodging a fit Prior from the test team regardless of how well he played this week.
"I would have thought that if Matt's fit, he plays," said Bell.
"He's been a massive part of our success, he's vice captain of this team, he's an important guy in the dressing room not just what he does on the pitch."
After losing substantial part of the Hobart match to rain, England arrived in Sydney to similar wet and windy weather on Sunday.
Their outdoor training session at the SCG had to be cancelled on Monday and Bell admitted the disrupted preparations for the series had not been ideal.
"We've got what we've got, we've got a lot of experience in the team so we can cope with that," he added.
"To have four hundreds out of two batting innings is a fantastic start to the tour. Hopefully we can carry on with what we've done so far in terms of the batting and also some bowlers get some rhythm as well.
"It would be nice to get some cricket this week, but we'll be ready for Brisbane, no doubt about that."
Bell also said he thought key England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who had a cortisone injection in his knee on Sunday, would play this week.
Australia have dropped batsmen Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja from the Invitational XI for the four-day match, which starts on Wednesday.
Callum Ferguson, though, gets another chance to face the tourists after wet weather limited his opportunity to impress in Hobart.
"Callum Ferguson didn't get the depth of international exposure we hoped to give him through his Australia A selection," Cricket Australia's Pat Howard said in a news release.
"We felt it made sense to select him in the next tour match against England."
Australia name their squad for the opening test on Tuesday in Brisbane, where the series gets underway at the Gabba on November 21.
Invitational XI: Ed Cowan, Aaron Finch, Callum Ferguson, Adam Voges, Ben Rohrer, Ryan Carters, Peter Nevill (captain), Stephen O'Keefe, Josh Lalor, Chris Tremain, Nic Bills. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)