Australia in New Zealand 2015-16 January 19, 2016

Bird, Sayers in Test squad for NZ tour

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'Hard work has paid off' - Sayers

Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers have been included as specialist seam bowling role players in Australia's Test squad for the tour of New Zealand next month.

In an assignment that can earn Steven Smith's men the No. 1 Test ranking, Bird and Sayers have been included as pace support for Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, in expectation of well grassed and seaming pitches. Steve O'Keefe and Scott Boland were dropped from the 14-man squad for Australia's most recent Test -- the rain-marred draw in Sydney against West Indies -- to make room for Bird and Sayers.

Bird played his most recent Test for Australia in Durham on the 2013 Ashes tour, while Sayers has never played for the national team. However he has turned out for Australia A, including on the tour of the British Isles that preceded the Ashes three years ago. The selection chairman Rod Marsh said Sayers had been in the frame for some time, excepting time out last season due to injury that also cruelled his chances of making the 2015 Ashes tour.

"Chadd's got a terrific record in Sheffield Shield cricket, he was injured most of last summer but he started well again this summer," Marsh said. "The season before he was rewarded with A team status in the side that went to England and did very well there. And it's a matter of horses for courses, we think the conditions in New Zealand will suit Chadd as much as anyone. He's a good bowler under conditions that nibble around a little bit, and we're very happy for him to be chosen.

"Even last summer when he played earlier in [2014] against India A at Allan Border Field you remember that game where it appeared thousands of runs were scored. Chadd bowled a lot of overs and got five-for and his figures outshone any other bowler. He can bowl, he thoroughly deserves his selection.

"Under normal New Zealand conditions I think you have to bowl line and length, you've got to be patient. It's something we haven't always been good at, but we'll have to get good at it if we want to win this series."

As for the contention that the selection of Bird and Sayers was a deviation from the "pace is power" mantra adopted by the coach and selector Darren Lehmann, Marsh demurred. "I haven't deviated from anything, because what I always thought is you pick the best bowlers for those conditions," he said. "To me speed is not everything ... there's no point bowling 150kph if you bowl half volleys and wides. Good bowling is good bowling, you pick your best bowlers. I don't care what speed they bowl, as long as they bowl beautifully."

The batting line-up arrived as expected following a strong showing by Australia's top order at home this summer. Mitchell Marsh remains the selectors' allrounder of choice. "I'm not totally surprised but I'm very happy," Marsh said of how the batting line-up had settled. "That's the bottom line, they've done exceptionally well. Make hay while the sun shines. Their confidence is obviously up and it'll need to be up, because New Zealand are a very, very good cricket team."

Australia's most recent Test tour of New Zealand was in 2010. Of that touring party only Smith, who was then a young and uncapped project player, will be making the trip again. I don't know what we're going to get in New Zealand, but if you just look at the pitch they played on in the World Cup game in Auckland that did a bit," Marsh said. "And the Sri Lankan series those did a bit, so you're assuming they're going to do a little bit.

"It's exciting at the moment because if we win in New Zealand we could well go to No. 1, if we play decent T20 cricket we could well go to No. 1 there, and I think we're that far ahead in one day cricket on the ratings it could be that we could get to No. 1 in all three forms."

Australia squad: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Chadd Sayers, Jackson Bird.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig