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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Havealendofitind on January 22, 2016, 4:16 GMT

    our medium pace trundlers will bury NZ surely and it's time wade came into the side @3

  • TheDoctor394 on January 21, 2016, 23:56 GMT

    @electric_loco_WAP4 - Did you forget about India and Pakistan there?

  • nathan188 on January 21, 2016, 22:56 GMT

    @ Shaggy076 - funny you place Starc above Boult in test cricket. Starc is yet to set the test scene alight with consistent performances. Boult has probably been the stand out bowler alongside Broad and Steyn over the last two years. He has had a couple of average series where he was joint top wicket taker in the Australian series and in the middle of the pack for the Sri Lankan series. Not to mention - these two series were also played under a big injury cloud that had him in doubt for all matches. The fact he was only one of two players named in both the ICC ODI and test teams of the year is a compliment to his consistency over the last two years of test and ODI cricket. The impressive aspect of his game is that he takes wickets in the sub-continent too. Starc will know doubt head in that direction. But for now, the stand out long standing performers of the last two years in tests are Boult, Steyn and Broad

  • Chris_P on January 21, 2016, 22:54 GMT

    Bird has made a case for selection with his performances this season. His home track probably resembles Kiwi pitches more than any other ground here so another plus. Sayers also has form on the board & over a number of seasons as well so also well deserved. Not sure about Sidds lately, a huge heart & has been a great servant of the game but these injuries are not helping his cause at all. It will be interesting how they go, my preference is for Bird to back up Pattinson & Hazlewood, but they all deserve their chance. Really looking forward to this series & I think NZ should be slight favourites over there, they really have been the big improvers of 2015.

  • HatsforBats on January 21, 2016, 21:17 GMT

    @BrusselsLion, Marsh is definitely showing his worth as the 4th seamer, and he's improved at a rate that suggests he may well one day be the first change role (unlikely they'll want him to have that workload though). We have seen more of his batting, and I don't think a single Aus fan believes he should be batting north of 7, at best, particularly when Neville has shown himself to be more capable with the bat. Whether our bats have learnt their lessons from England we'll have to wait and see.

  • john_bnsa on January 21, 2016, 21:08 GMT

    We all know that even if Australia become the number 1 test team, they still wont win in England, the UAE and India. In the words of Steven Smith, " wont even come close"

  • brusselslion on January 21, 2016, 13:11 GMT

    As others have said, should be a good series. If the conditions are similar to England, and NZ bowl half decently then they must have a good chance unless the Aussie batsman have learnt from the England trip. A lot of the Aussie batsman got themselves out in England by going at the ball with hard hands, instead of letting it come on to them and playing with soft hands. Re Marsh: He looked like a good 4th seamer/ bowling all-rounder to me in England, although if I was an Aussie fan, I'd be happier to see him at 8, rather than 6. However, you guys see more of him than me.

  • fanofdan11 on January 21, 2016, 12:28 GMT

    the series could be very exciting. New Zealand are playing good cricket. Baz retiring will make it special for them. Australia can become number 1, Exciting times ahead

  • Beertjie on January 21, 2016, 11:04 GMT

    You make an excellent point, @Sherlockoz on January 20, 2016, 3:41 GMT, about the dry conditions with only variable overhead conditions at Christchurch perhaps being helpful to swing. That said, Sayers needs to play there alongside Pattinson and Hazelwood. Not sure of Sidds for Wellington. Just hope Lyon doesn't get injured in a warm-up (lol). Glad for Bird. Hope the injuries stay away so he gets more opportunities.

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on January 21, 2016, 9:07 GMT

    As others have noted, it is disappointing that such a good series in prospect has been devalued by only having 2 Tests. Bird and Sayers should enjoy the conditions if Siddle is still battling injury and below his best. Aus could have done with one of these in the latest Ashes, so with them in the squad let's hope the selectors are bold enough to make the right team choices ....... and to do so before it's too late.

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