Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne December 19, 2012

Bird hopes for more Melbourne success


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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mick 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.

  • Mick 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 ????

  • Ben 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.

  • narbavi 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!!

  • Andrew 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!

  • Ben 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.

  • Chris 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.

  • Peter 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.

  • Peter 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.

  • Steve 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.

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