Gloucestershire v Australia A, Bristol, 1st day

Bird charts Ashes bowling blueprint

Daniel Brettig in Bristol

June 21, 2013

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Jackson Bird finished with 4 for 41, Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2013
Jackson Bird ended the opening day in Bristol with miserly figures of 0 for 29 in ten overs © Getty Images
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Typically miserly on his return to action for Australia A following the back injury that curtailed his India tour, Jackson Bird has outlined the tourists' Ashes bowling blueprint to place England under the kind of sustained pressure so desired by their coach Mickey Arthur.

Should Australia be seeking a purveyor of sustained tight bowling with subtle swing and bounce from a decent height, then Bird is a non-negotiable selection for the first match of the series at Trent Bridge, having shown in two Tests so far that he has the rare capacity to land the ball more or less where he wants to. He hinted at this again on day one in Bristol, nearly pinning Michael Klinger lbw twice in the first over of the innings and going to stumps with 0 for 29 from 10 overs.

As part of Australia's long-term planning for this northern summer, Bird was a tourist to these parts with Australia A in 2012 also, and learned valuable lessons about bowling in England. Chief among these is that any paceman who walks onto the ground with delusions of grandiose swing and bowling the perfect ball will soon find himself nursing expensive figures while patrolling the boundary - consistency is everything.

"You've got to be pretty strict on your lines and length," Bird said. "The wickets are a little bit slower so anything too full or short or anything with width just gets put away so you've got to be really diligent with your lines and length and not give away too much. I probably didn't bowl as well as I would have liked last year [in England].

"When I first came over here I was more worried about the movement and trying to swing the ball and trying to get that sideways movement as well, so when I reverted to trying to just hit my line and length, if I put the ball in the right area I tend to swing the ball anyway. So I learnt that pretty quickly and by the end of the tour I was able to do that."

Bird was perhaps the most valuable find of the past Australian summer, the delay in his selection when he might have been chosen for the pivotal Perth Test against South Africa immediately looking foolish as he moved the ball appreciably against Sri Lanka while scooping 11 wickets at 16.18 on the Boxing Day/New Year swing.

He was likely to figure in the India Tests on less forgiving surfaces before a back stress fracture was diagnosed, forcing him home. The early return to Australia may have cost Bird a Cricket Australia contract, but he bore no grudge about the fate that befell him, reasoning it allowed him time to freshen up for a tour far more amenable to his modus operandi.

"I hadn't had an injury in about six years before that so to get it during a Test series was pretty disappointing but it probably happened at a good time," Bird said. "I got the three months off to get myself fit and strong, get rid of my back injury and also a few other niggles. If it had happened at the end of the tour I probably would have missed out on the Ashes as well so looking at it that way it probably was good timing."

Like Ed Cowan, George Bailey, James Faulkner and numerous others in the Australian set-up, Bird has benefited greatly from a strong team and culture in Tasmania, having moved south from New South Wales in search of improved fitness, focus and performance. He said the Tigers had imbued him with plenty of belief, something he was now seeing among other members of the Australian Test bowling attack after their work together so far in England.

"When I first got down to Tassie I basically wanted to get myself into a position to play first-class cricket - I tried to get as fit as I could," Bird said. "Then when I got my chance I definitely had the full support of [now retired coach] Tim Coyle, the coaching staff, George and all the players as well. It puts your mind at ease when you're running in knowing that everyone's behind you. Tim was a great coach and we're sad to see him go, but he definitely made me feel very welcome."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by H_Z_O on (June 25, 2013, 11:09 GMT)

@ScottStevo did you even watch the Headingley Test? How is promoting Pietersen to open to try to chase down 253 in 39 overs anything but "going for a win"? Meanwhile for all the talk of South Africa being "on the ropes", the spine of your batting was Michael Clarke (a man whose own spine is letting him down right now) and Mike Hussey (a man who's retired). Australia were 40-3 at the Gabba and 55-3 at Adelaide. The one time both Clarke and Hussey failed (Perth) Australia were skittled out for 163 and lost by over 300 runs.

I'm not saying Australia didn't play better against South Africa than England did (it would probably be fair to say they did) but to say England "fell in a heap" when our lowest first innings total was 315 (which Pietersen, having scored 149 in the previous Test, missed through injury) and yours was 163 is the definition of "rose-tinted". Especially as our batsmen never had the pleasure of facing Rory Kleinveldt, a man who makes Jade Dernbach look like Glenn McGrath.

Posted by ScottStevo on (June 22, 2013, 21:29 GMT)

@Optic, it's nice to view things in a statistical manner that somewhat supports your rose tinted view of a rather one sided series where at no stage in any of those test matches were England "going for a win" - more to the point, trying to survive being bowled out as they were completely outplayed and outclassed by a far superior team. The very same team that Australia had on the ropes and, barring one of the most miraculous debutant innings, should never have lost that series.

Posted by Optic on (June 22, 2013, 18:30 GMT)

@ Simoc Its good to tell from that comment you haven't a clue what you're talking about. England's lowest 1st inning total was 315 and their lowest 2nd inning was 140/4 at headingley when they were going for a win. Go on then mate tell me how England fell in a heap because if you'd have watched you'd know England's problem was dropping catches all the time & letting guys like Amla and Petersen get big hundreds after being dropped 3 or 4 times. England's 3 first inning totals in the series were,385, 425 & 315 and apart from the 1st test they took 20 wickets twice.

Posted by Batmanian on (June 22, 2013, 14:50 GMT)

I stand by rolling the dice. Dithering over giving Khawaja a go, and then another go, and now another go, seems to have taken a huge toll on his confidence. At the very least, I'd like to see Smith get a run now - he's been useful lately. Ponting and Clarke were obvious future champions at 19; but we have no such prospects now, and have to try something. Do not want Australian batsmen born in the 1990s going the way of those born in the last three-quarters of the 80s - nowhere.

Posted by Shuraim on (June 22, 2013, 13:52 GMT)

@TeamRocker on (June 22, 2013, 9:42 GMT): Can't agree more on that team but lot of changes will have to take place for that to happen in terms of bringing players from the A-side.

Posted by Simoc on (June 22, 2013, 13:28 GMT)

I expect Bird to do well against this English batting side that fell in a heap against the South African attack. We've seen that they are average against good bowling. I expect Bird will do a Philander type job.

Posted by ollie99 on (June 22, 2013, 13:08 GMT)

Strange first sentence for an otherwise interesting article. Bird got less wickets for more rpo than either Harris or Bird. Harris was miserly.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (June 22, 2013, 11:10 GMT)

Bird just out-bowled by a little known 'medium (not even medium-fast) by the name of Sayers. Bird keeps a tight line and will pick up the odd wicket, but he's no match-winner, and will be able to do little against the likes of Cook, as 760+ runs are piled on again in an Ashes series by one batsman alone.

Posted by Poliwag060 on (June 22, 2013, 10:51 GMT)

I wouldn't exactly call 10 overs for 29 miserly... I'd say it was particularly average.

Posted by Potatis on (June 22, 2013, 9:50 GMT)

Bird should be playing in every test. I'll be disappointed if he doesn't. He's not just economical, he's a wicket taker. His bowling partners will also get wickets at times due to his tight bowling, which also happened with McGrath and Warne. He's a perfect bowler for English conditions.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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