Australian physiotherapist Alex Kountouris works on Shane Watson's back before the Boxing Day Test.

Australian physiotherapist Alex Kountouris works on Shane Watson's back before the Boxing Day Test. Photo: Getty Images

That Australia kept the same 11 players on the park for all five Ashes Tests is one of cricket's modern miracles.

All three fast bowlers had niggles that could have put them out of a Test. Ryan Harris, who until last winter had never played more than three in a row, had an assortment of ailments and bowled his last spell in Melbourne with the back missing from a shoe to relieve the toe-curling pain from the gaping wound on his heel.

Peter Siddle had a sore hip and back towards the end of the series, but soldiered through all 10 home and away contests, while Michael Clarke quietly pushed through some ''bumpy periods'' with his back.

Shane Watson got through despite hamstring and groin niggles, easing the load on the main bowlers with 23 overs in stinking heat in Perth.

''It's amazing to go unchanged through all five Tests. All three [quicks] have had things going on in this series, but they found a way,'' said team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.

Australia has not known such stability since 1989, when Allan Border's team changed just once in six Tests, and it was again a key to Ashes success. The last team to go through a five-Test series with the same XI was the West Indies in 1991.

Kountouris knows all too well how easily things can go wrong; how one injury can lead to disaster.

Last summer, James Pattinson's breakdown in Adelaide led to the workload of the other quicks cranking into the ''extreme'' category, which led to Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus missing the Perth Test, in which the replacement attack was carved up by South Africa.

This summer, Kountouris was quietly confident he and his medical team could get the quicks through the series from the moment England folded in the face of Mitchell Johnson's onslaught at the Gabba, where no Australian had to bowl more than 37 overs.

''It's not all about us abandoning a rotation policy, which we didn't have,'' Kountouris said. ''Last year in six Tests, on six occasions, bowlers bowled more than 50 overs in a match.

''That's a known risk, and that didn't happen once this summer. The hard one was always going to be the short turnaround between Adelaide and Perth, and it was. With Harris everyone knows his knee was sore and swollen, but we tested him the same way we did with Siddle last year and he was OK to play.

''If he had bowled 60 overs like Sidds did [last summer], there's no way he would have played. Myself and the doc [Peter Brukner] and the team worked pretty hard between games to get them up, but the players themselves wanted to play. They were just so determined.

''The last two Tests, we'd won the series, it would have been easy for one of them to miss because we've got an important Test series coming up against South Africa, but they wanted to play.''

Kountouris describes Harris' effort to push through hip, calf and knee pain, and finish his ninth Ashes Test in a row with a man-of-the-match performance, as ''unbelievable''. But he was in excruciating pain because of a pesky blister at the MCG.

''It sounds a bit wussy, I know women get blisters from wearing high heels and they get on with it, but this was more of an ulcer. It was a great big hole on the back of his heel and his shoe just kept on digging in.''

Harris was crying out for a pain-killing injection but Brukner refused because it could have numbed his whole foot.

Kountouris grabbed scissors and a scalpel and chopped a hole in the back of his boot.

Pat Howard's team performance unit planned out the summer using the lessons from last season, figuring Pattinson had played one too many Sheffield Shield games before the Test series. This time, Siddle and Harris were held back at the start of the Ryobi Cup, had limited workloads in the first Shield game and sat out the one before the Gabba Test.

The morning after the whitewash, all Australia had to worry about was 11 sore heads.