Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne

Bird hopes for more Melbourne success

Brydon Coverdale

December 19, 2012

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

Jackson Bird sends down a delivery, Queensland v Tasmania, Sheffield Shield final, 3rd day, March 18, 2012
Jackson Bird topped the Shield wicket tally last summer © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Jackson Bird | Mitchell Johnson
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

If Mitchell Johnson was a horses-for-courses selection against South Africa at the WACA, Jackson Bird must be a dead cert for Boxing Day at the MCG. An accurate seamer whose game revolves around making the batsmen play, Bird has had remarkable success in his only two first-class appearances at the MCG. To be fair, there's hardly a venue within Australia where his record is not outstanding.

At 26, Bird has a chance of becoming Australia's 431st Test cricketer on Boxing Day against Sri Lanka. He is effectively competing with Johnson for the final place in Australia's attack, a spot that has opened up due to the side injury suffered by Ben Hilfenhaus at Bellerive Oval. Bird might not be a like-for-like replacement for Hilfenhaus but he would offer the selectors a degree of reliability, which on Melbourne's drop-in pitches is no bad thing.

"Ben is more of a swing bowler where I tend to hit the wicket a little bit more," Bird said in Melbourne on Wednesday. "I certainly don't bowl as fast as Mitchell Johnson does. Mitch is a great bowler and I suppose whoever gets the nod between me and him will hopefully do a good job.

"The MCG is a great place to play. There's always a little bit in the wicket for the fast bowlers. I definitely do enjoy playing here ... My game works on being patient and trying to bowl the same ball every time and challenging the defence."

It's a method that has served Bird wonderfully well in his short first-class career. Last summer was his first season of state cricket, a career that was kick-started by his move from New South Wales to Tasmania. He topped the Sheffield Shield wicket tally with 53 victims and was named the tournament's Player of the Year, and this season he is again the leading wicket-taker so far.

In his 17 first-class matches, Bird has collected 87 wickets at an average of 19.72, and at the MCG his record is 14 victims at the astounding average of 12.07 from two games. In his first match at the venue, Bird collected five wickets in each innings, including the key Victorian trio of Chris Rogers, David Hussey and Cameron White in both innings. Johnson has managed only one five-wicket haul in his eight first-class appearances in Melbourne.

Of course, statistics aren't everything, but the ability to maintain such a strong record over a season and a half has impressed John Inverarity and his selection panel. Bird was picked for the Australia A tour of England earlier this year but was overlooked for the Australia A game against South Africa in November. However, Bird revealed the selectors had assured him at the time he would be firmly in contention for a Test call-up if injuries affected the frontline bowlers.

"I've been in communication with the selectors for the last couple of Test matches," Bird said. "When Ben went down I thought I might be a chance. Luckily enough I got the call ... I had pretty good communications with John Inverarity during that period when [the Australia A side] got selected so I wasn't too disappointed when I missed out. I thought it might be a good thing that they were saving me for the Test match."

Even if the call-up doesn't turn into a Test debut, it has certainly justified Bird's decision to head south from Sydney in an effort to break in to first-class cricket. It is not as if Bird was plucked from nowhere - in 2006 he was part of the Australia Under-19 World Cup squad that also featured David Warner, Matthew Wade, Usman Khawaja, Moises Henriques, Aaron Finch, Jon Holland and Ben Cutting - but he knew that his chances in New South Wales would be slim.

"I moved down there in the first place just for an opportunity," Bird said. "I always thought I was good enough to play first-class cricket but in New South Wales there were a lot of good fast bowlers going around like Pat Cummins and Trent Copeland, who were making their debuts for New South Wales and Australia. I was 24 by that time and once Tassie offered me a contract I thought it might be my last chance to play first-class cricket so I jumped at the opportunity."

Australia's selectors are glad he made the move as well.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Micky.Panda on (December 22, 2012, 6:17 GMT)

On Anderson. Like many fast bowlers, form varies. He is improved and had a purple patch in 2010. He is a lot better than M Johnson who had a purple patch for only one or two tests and otherwise wayward and ordinary. Peter Siddle is also a greatly improved player and now well in front of Anderson in recent match performances and also in long term averages. I would rather have Hilfy than Anderson too.

Posted by Micky.Panda on (December 22, 2012, 5:58 GMT)

I agree that Cutting should be given a chance. Handy with bat too. If not Cutting then Bird, but MJ no way. The new batsmen should be either Doolan or Rogers. I am not conviced at all by Cowan who is avarging just 31ish for the 2012/2013 1st class season. His test average is also low 30s. I never understood why him rather than Rogers with better long term consistency. I would also like to see Henriques get a chance as an all rounder at some point Meanwhile Lyon is not convincing. Warney should do the right thing for his country and the ashes. Meanwhile maybe O'Keefe on wickets not expected to suit a spinner or ????

Posted by sawifan on (December 20, 2012, 12:42 GMT)

Why is Cutting routinely being ignored? My guess is he has stepped on someone's toes after being omitted from the 1st test last year. I hope that isn't the case, though his constant omission since then seems odd. @Kolpak1989, thx, i loved the Anderson comment. FFL loves to run his mouth off about how bad AUS bwolers are and how good Anderson is. Take out the last Ashes series and Anderson averages 56. And he still averages 45 at home against us. Anderson is not a great bowler. He is an average bowler going through a purple patch. Clarke and co will eat him alive next year. Finn is the bowler to worry about i feel! Anyway, i hope Bird gets the call up. I have always like Johnson, but performance should be rewarded.

Posted by Solace1 on (December 20, 2012, 5:46 GMT)

I don't know why Cricket Australia is sending their club level bowlers against our mighty team, we would end his test career for sure!!

Posted by Meety on (December 20, 2012, 4:51 GMT)

@Kolpak1989 on (December 20 2012, 01:41 AM GMT) - "my pastey friend" - thats GOLD! @ Chris_P on (December 19 2012, 23:06 PM GMT) - I think MJ is a very good chance to come in & replace Hilfy. His average is not where I'd like it to be (S/Rate pretty good), but IF previous articles are anything to go by (dunno), I think they will want 2 experienced pacers + a raw one. They have also said that they'll rotate the raw pacer. So IMO, that would indicate that MJ for Hilfy, Bird in for Starc. As for what I think of MJ? - I think he has peaked but could serve Oz cricket in all formats at varying degrees for quite a while yet!

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (December 20, 2012, 1:41 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge, No one forgets Ashes 2006 either. Put Peter Siddle and James Anderson up side-by-side in statsguru. We're coming to get you my pasty friend.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (December 19, 2012, 23:28 GMT)

I can see the headlines on Boxing day... "Could Bird be our new Pidgeon?" You heard it here at cricinfo first.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 19, 2012, 23:06 GMT)

Mervo, Johnson has had his time, he bowled well in Perth, but history shows he never repeats it in a summer. Bird totally out-bowled him in Hobart & according to the Argus report must be worthy of consideration. He may the most successful left armer in our test history, but he his average is the highest of our top 20 wicket takers. The time to move forward is now, & yes, NSW does seem to produce plenty of pace bowlers, don't they? Toss Hastings in there with Bird as well. Starc is only 22 & on the rise, that is what we should be looking for.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 19, 2012, 22:58 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge. Where were you when South Africa flogged you? And when Pakistan flogged you as well, and not s single post in the first test when India pasted you? All these posts & not even one post remotely resembling an intelligent thought. Well done! You are taken as seriously as the thought gone into your posts.

Posted by thejesusofcool on (December 19, 2012, 16:23 GMT)

If you want to compete for the Ashes, you need a stock seamer with a bit extra,like Stu Clark, to balance the attacking bowler like Siddle or Starc & even both.

Bird's height is a help, too. Might be a good choice,have to see,but at present Hilfenhaus hasn't got it, or has lost it again,ditto Johnson.

Your other real bowling problem is where you get a wicket-taking spinner from. Lyon is tidy & fairly economical, but just doesn't threaten on a 5th day pitch to bowl a side out.

Posted by Mitcher on (December 19, 2012, 14:45 GMT)

@Mervo: You're joking right? First backing Johnson (love his effort but to suggest he hasn't been given chances is delusional). And, you're now claiming a Vic bias? I'm not even sure how to respond to that... As pointed out by others, whinge about NSW bias, but every other state is buying them like Blue Chips. FFL: No doubt Boxing Day 2010 was amazing for England. Just as 1989-2004 were quite acceptable for Australia.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 19, 2012, 13:00 GMT)

No one forgets Boxing Day 2010. The Christmas Minnow Big Bash continues.

Posted by Meety on (December 19, 2012, 12:06 GMT)

@HatsforBats on (December 19 2012, 05:11 AM GMT) - yep, on merit, Butterworth would be next after Bird - this year. The thing about Cutting is, he really could bemolded into a top order batsmen. On stats, he is up against Henriques & Christian he looks pretty good IMO. Batting-wise he is only a few runs behind & I know which player I would select for their bowling!!!!

Posted by PrasPunter on (December 19, 2012, 11:35 GMT)

IMHO, a fit Johnson who can bend it back into the right-handed batsmen could be an exciting prospect. But is he doing that consistently ? If Starc is doing that consistently at 140+, then the choice of Starc ahead of Johnson must be a no-brainer. It will be really good to have Bird get a game. The more we have in reserve, the better, with india and Ashes tours looming large.

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

They cant go back to Johnson.. He will only be around for another 1-2 years so i think it would make more sense giving a younger player like Bird who is only 26 a shot.. he would have 6-7 years in him

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 10:11 GMT)

@Mervo, I think you are missing the point, it is players moving AWAY from NSW that are getting a run. Cowan, Bird, Hughes, Khawaja, Hastings, Lyon. I also fail to see where your backing of Johnson is coming from, he is still not moving the ball back into the right handers at all...... Bird for mine has to play, a guy who wants to bowl six balls in a row in the same spot is what the team needs... I saw him hitting 140kmph the other night, not too shabby, certainly quick enough if you can find late movement off the right length, which I believe he can. Can't wait!

Posted by Wozza-CY on (December 19, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

I would be prepared to give Bird a go at the G. Picking a player who is accurate my give Siddle & Starc a little more freedom to attack from one end.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (December 19, 2012, 8:20 GMT)

Both Khawaja and Bird are good decisions in my view. I really hope Bird gets a game or even two to see if he can transfer his shield bowling to the test arena. That's always the big question mark I suppose. Khawaja has improved a 100% under boof this year.

Posted by smudgeon on (December 19, 2012, 7:51 GMT)

Perhaps a case could be made for an ACT shield or at least short-form team (wasn't this tried about 10-15 years ago?), although I also like the idea of cricketers moving states for better opportunities - helps improve the DNA of local cricket, and even though silverware shouldn't be the aim of state sides, it's good to develop a team with a winning culture. I wouldn't say other states are better or lesser teams on paper than Tassie, but the Tassie guys certainly seem to have that kind of hunger and team spirit which breeds success. You could argue that if it wasn't for Dan Marsh moving to Tassie during a low-ebb and doing the hard yards, Tassie might still be languishing at the bottom of the Shield table, barely competitive and nary a national representative of note beyond Punter & Boonie. Er, what was my point again? What's this article about?

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 6:41 GMT)

Some are right about NSW having an incredible amount of untapped talent. Gilchrist had to go west to get a shot and he was named into the world all time 11. Not bad for a NSWman who may never had got a game at home. To all the players going to other states go on you Australia needs its best players playing first class cricket. Lest face it if that means 2 NSW teams then so be it AUSTRALIAN cricket would be the winner. PS send some more of these cast offs here to South Aust

Posted by Mervo on (December 19, 2012, 6:35 GMT)

Geez Mitcher - so they all come from NSW. I guess so like rugby league footballers ..

Seriously though Mitchell Johnson and be Cutting are the as deserving as Bird and have far more talent as cricketers. Cutting is outstanding. Maybe he needs to move to NSW or Victoria to get picked?

Posted by zenboomerang on (December 19, 2012, 6:35 GMT)

@dunger.bob... Been calling for a expanded SS comp for years - ACT & 2nd NSW team... Would also like to see 2 NZ teams added to a 10 team comp... This would be good for all regions & strengthen both countries... Oz & NZ have badly negative managements, while Oz wants to be insular & NZ thinks they can take over USA - lol - both day dreaming...

Posted by Mervo on (December 19, 2012, 6:32 GMT)

We have had many leading Shield wicket takers in the past who have failed at the next level. Bird is an accurate, honest medium pacer. Johnson has earned his place even more especially now as he is our leading left arm wicket taker ever. With his new action and accuracy with real pace, it is no contest.

Posted by vj_gooner on (December 19, 2012, 5:19 GMT)

The Aussie injured players XI can be most of the teams in test cricket! That's the amount of players we have injured!

Posted by HatsforBats on (December 19, 2012, 5:16 GMT)

@Mervo, I thought Johnson outbowled Starc in Perth and deserved another shot. But I think with Starc bouncing and yorking batsmen at 145kph + yesterday Johnson might be the one carrying the drinks again in Melbourne.

Posted by HatsforBats on (December 19, 2012, 5:11 GMT)

@Meety, I have to agree, Cutting has had a very good season and was previously on the fringes of the test team. He seems quite a bit quicker and handy with the bat too. Bird though is on fire and his selection falls in line with the NSP mantra of rewarding consistent performance. I'd think his style it's good enough for the international scene; accurate and move the ball, that's what a lot of the greats have built their games on. It does raise the question though of why Butterworth is being ignored?

Posted by Mitcher on (December 19, 2012, 5:05 GMT)

Great to see another two New South Welsmen in the mix. The 'NSW-bias' conspiracy theorists are strangely quiet. I guess every now and then it becomes clear the only players excelling in their own states' teams are blue baggers anyway.

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 3:59 GMT)

Aussie need a good bowler, Good on you!

Posted by Mervo on (December 19, 2012, 3:22 GMT)

I would think he should get ready to carry the drinks. Mitchell Johnson is going to play and deservedly so.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 19, 2012, 2:32 GMT)

I reckon there is some case for having 2 NSW teams in the shield. More people than any other state but still can only pick 11 players. ... How many good careers never got started because they never quite got picked. ... This might sound too radical for some of the old schoolers who still believe the purpose of the shield is to bring glory to ones state as opposed to my view that it's only purpose is to find the best cricketers in the nation. Victoria could probably support a 2nd team as well.

Usman will play if Clarke doesn't and I'd like to see Bird given a shot ahead of Mitch.

Posted by smudgeon on (December 19, 2012, 2:28 GMT)

Didn't I read someone's comment a few days ago that Bird was regarded by selectors as a "Bellerive Bully"? Doesn't have a half-bad record at the 'G considering that. Glad the selectors are giving him serious consideration - and nice to see proof that they are following through on their claims of rewarding performance. If he makes the team, I wish him all the best on Boxing Day - show 'em your stuff, buddy!

Posted by Meety on (December 19, 2012, 1:30 GMT)

On merit - he is a must select. I personally would lean towards Cutting, but Bird's 18 month career is impeccable. Kas he got the style to succedd against International batsmen though???????

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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