Australia set to release Bird on Black Caps

Jackson Bird in action for the Sydney Sixers. Photo / Getty
Jackson Bird in action for the Sydney Sixers. Photo / Getty

Australia's selectors will acknowledge that speed isn't everything by commissioning Jackson Bird to help spearhead their charge for the No.1 Test ranking against New Zealand.

It's been more than two and a half years since Bird last played a Test match and despite being the Sheffield Shield's leading wicket-taker, he was ignored for selection during the recent home series against the West Indies.

However, the classy right-armer is today set to break his drought and be named in Australia's 14-man squad to take on the Black Caps in next month's crunch two-Test tour of NZ.

No cricketing nation has ever before held the No.1 spot in all three formats, but a 1-0 triumph for Australia in the land of the long white cloud will be enough for them to achieve ground-breaking history.

England's crushing defeat of current Test champs South Africa has now opened the door for Steve Smith's side, but for once speed won't be the centrepiece of Australia's attack.
The sudden retirement of Mitchell Johnson and the serious injury suffered by Mitchell Starc sparked a feverish search for the country's next fast bowling talent, but still no one has announced themselves.

Instead, it's the ever-consistent record of 29-year-old Bird that cannot be denied.
Selectors have consistently favoured fast bowlers who can push the speed gun upwards of 140km/h.

They even picked Nathan Coulter-Nile (now injured) with no match practice under his belt and called up the Shield's ninth-best performing fast bowler Scott Boland as back-up to face the Windies, both at the expense of Bird.

However, Bird's ability to move the ball on seaming wickets - an element Australia lacked on the most recent Ashes - combined with his strong Shield performances for Tasmania will see him finally break the mould.

Bird has taken 22 wickets at an average of 24 runs per scalp this domestic first-class season, and his Test record is also strong - 13 wickets at 23 from three matches.

There is lingering injury doubt over fellow quicks Peter Siddle and James Pattinson meaning Bird is every chance of joining Josh Hazlewood in the XI for the first Test against the Black Caps in Wellington on February 12.

Conditions in New Zealand are tipped to resemble the Ashes part II, with Australia needing to prove they've learnt how to handle the seaming UK decks that brought them undone so badly on last year's disastrous Ashes campaign.

If Hazlewood and Pattinson are fit and ready for the first Test, it would likely leave Bird, Siddle and Boland fighting for the remaining place in the three-pronged attack.

Siddle, who has been battling an ankle injury, will have to prove his fitness in Victoria's Shield game against Tasmania at the MCG starting on February 3.

Pattinson, has been nursing shin soreness, and may also need to play that match for the Vics.

Elsewhere, selectors may try to get as many Test players as possible into the one-day squad to play three internationals against the Black Caps which will be staged in the direct lead-up to the Tests.

The idea being to get as many players as possible acclimatised to the conditions with no official tour game scheduled.

NSW and West Australian players picked in the Australian squad will feature in a specifically scheduled Shield match to take place in Christchurch from February 3.

After dominant performances against New Zealand and the Windies in the home summer, Australia's batting line-up is set in concrete - with Joe Burns to open, Usman Khawaja to bat at No.3 and Shaun Marsh to travel as the reserve batsman.

LIKELY AUSTRALIAN SQUAD: Joe Burns, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Scott Boland, Jackson Bird, Shaun Marsh.

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 26 Sep 2016 01:19:13 Processing Time: 584ms