New Zealand v Australia, 1st Test, Wellington February 11, 2016

Bird to play ahead of Pattinson


Jackson Bird's last Test match was against England at at Durham in 2013 © Getty Images

Jackson Bird will play his first Test since the 2013 Ashes tour after he was given the nod ahead of James Pattinson and Chadd Sayers for the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington. Australia's selectors chose Bird, Peter Siddle and Josh Hazlewood as the three frontline fast bowlers, due to uncertainty that Pattinson's fitness would allow him to get through the match.

Pattinson did not play throughout much of January due to shin soreness and made his return in last week's Sheffield Shield match for Victoria against Tasmania at the MCG. He bowled 21.3 overs in that game but was withdrawn early to fly to New Zealand, and the selectors have decided not to risk him in Wellington.

"The selectors weren't 100% sure whether he'd get through this first Test match, so that decision was made," Australia's captain Steven Smith said on Thursday. "Jackson Bird has been bowling extremely well. I saw him for the first time yesterday in the nets and I thought he bowled extremely well. I'm really happy with the XI we've picked and hopefully we can have a successful week."

There is only a short turnaround before the second Test in Christchurch, but the selectors and Smith are confident that the extra time will be enough for Pattinson to be available for that match, which starts on February 20.

"I think it's nice to just have that little bit of extra time," Smith said. "He can get a few bowls in in the nets over the next couple of days and the selectors are confident that he'll be fit and available for the second Test match."

The decision means that Bird, 29, will play the fourth Test of his career and the first for two and a half years. He debuted against Sri Lanka on Boxing Day in 2012 and was Man of the Match in his second Test against them at the SCG later in the same series, but has worn the baggy green only once since then - in Chester-le-Street during the unsuccessful 2013 Ashes campaign.

"He's always performed really well at Shield level and I think it's great that he gets another opportunity," Smith said. "I saw him bowling yesterday and I think he's bowling with quite good pace, he's hitting a good area and he's swinging the ball, and swinging it late, which is a great attribute to have. If he gets the ball in the right areas in this Test match I think he can do a bit of damage.

"He runs in all day, he's quite tall so he hits the bat a little bit higher than you think. He generally hits good areas. I think that's really important for us in this Test series, particularly if the wickets are going to do a little bit. If we're hitting good areas we're going to create a lot of chances and I think he can do that for us."

New Zealand also confirmed their XI on the eve of the Wellington Test, with Henry Nicholls set to make his debut batting at No.4 in the absence of the injured Ross Taylor. Corey Anderson has also returned for the first time since the Lord's Test against England in May last year, and Mark Craig has replaced the injured Mitchell Santner. The adjusted balance meant fast man Neil Wagner was axed.

"It was incredibly tough on Wags because he's done such a great job for us," New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said. "But with losing Santner to injury and the balance of the team, we have to go in with a spinner. You've got to pick a team for five days and Mark Craig came back into calculations. Tough on Wagner, but otherwise I think the team picked itself."

New Zealand 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Henry Nicholls, 5 Brendon McCullum, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Mark Craig, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult.

Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Joe Burns, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Peter Nevill (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Josh Hazlewood, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jackson Bird.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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  • Terry on February 11, 2016, 17:04 GMT

    Bird may well be more suited to this sort of pitch but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say his Test future depends on a good performance. Didn't do it in England in 2013 when you'd think conditions would suit so will be overtaken if he fails again.

  • John on February 11, 2016, 15:35 GMT

    I was not aware of JP having a significant niggle and assumed he was an automatic after JH. He is quicker than anyone else available for Oz right now and this attack looks a bit samey in his absence. There were a couple of stretches against WI where Siddle (like Boult in Oz) was barely breaking 130. If you are bending it like a banana then I guess that is ok but it is just a fact that in terms of reaction time there is a huge difference between 126-135 and 136-145 kph. I'm really not expecting a lot of bananas here. Solid, pedantic line and length with a bit of sideways and a bit of up and down seems like it will be the order of the day and so really it is about who can dig in. Of the Oz batsmen I really think DW and UK will least have to change their natural game to do well here and if there is one thing about the BR that is apparent it is that if you are prepared to dig in you can reap a big harvest. Beware walking the banks too for a large butt divot from my fat arse ca. mid 90's.

  • Hrishikesh on February 11, 2016, 12:24 GMT

    @BRADMCGALLAGH That's harsh. Pattinson is the one guy who's had most of the injuries. This was Starc's first major issue since he came into the side. Hazlewood had his problems when he was 21/22 but for the last 2-3 years he's been fine. Cummins is just 22 and he's a 150+ bowler. Who else can bowl that quick? Starc is one. Milne who's 23 now and has had plenty of injuries himself. Andre Russel is another, but he gave up on test cricket saying his body can't handle it. Looking at retired ones - Lee has more than his share throughout his career, so did Bond. It's not just Aus. Or maybe it seems that way because Aus produces the majority of the "super quicks". So basically your theory that these guys are mentally weak is itself pretty weak.

  • Matt on February 11, 2016, 11:36 GMT

    Btw... I heard McGrath say he thrived on workload and loved to keep bowling but needed an off season of about 6 weeks each year to do some gym work. They don't get that these days. Reckon I've heard Dizzy say similar and Michael Holding too.

  • Matt on February 11, 2016, 11:32 GMT

    Understand the frustration with the injuries but they are real. You ever tried running let alone bowling with a hammy? Or stress fractures in your back? Or a dislocated shoulder? I feel your frustration but we've gotta work out why they're getting injured not put it down to lack of mental toughness. Maybe they just need to bowl more during their development not less. I don't know as much as the physios and fitness experts but I reckon the jury is still out on workload.

  • Russell on February 11, 2016, 11:09 GMT

    The Aussie bowlers do too much work in the gym, that's why they're always injured. Patto is carrying too much weight, he needs to slim down. Watto was huge and could barely run. The best bowlers are lean and athletic, think Lillee, Anderson, Broad, McGrath, Gillespie, Holding...

  • James on February 11, 2016, 10:38 GMT

    @Praspunter, mate I couldnt agree more. Our guys are injured more than other nations bowlers, and they arent doing much different to my mind. Im beginning to think its mental weakness as much as physical. Ive been watching australian cricket for over 40 years and theres a lack of spine been creeping in to ever since pups days to my mind and its at its worst now with Smith. It shows in our attitude on field as much as elsewhere and off field. But Im thinking it also shows in our bowlers being crocked all the time? I hate to say it but they bowl less overs than the poms do at any rate.

  • hamish on February 11, 2016, 10:34 GMT

    I figure the wind will be strong at some stage so I pity whichever Aussie has to bowl into it.

  • Russell on February 11, 2016, 9:57 GMT

    The Aussie attack should do well on this pitch, Lyon will provide good backup if it flattens out. Marsh should be given a bowl while the ball is still hard, he will get some movement at decent pace. I'm sure they'll be thinking if they can get Williamson early then they can run through the Kiwi line-up. The bowling of Anderson and Craig is no-where near as good as Marsh and Lyon, this might tip it for the Aussies if the pitch flattens out. The Kiwi batting looks thin with no Taylor and Anderson at 6. Surprised they didn't give Henry a game, he's lively and puts it in good areas. Southee and Boult really need make an impact early and keep the Aussies under pressure

  •   Jono Makim on February 11, 2016, 9:17 GMT

    Just looking at that Kiwi middle order, there is an opening there without Ross Taylor. Nicholls, BMac, Anderson is no firewall. I'm not only relieved but also a bit upset that Wagner has been left out, he's such a competitor and I think more skillful than people give him credit for, BMac talks about them leaving him out because they want options once the pitch flattens out, but for mine Wags IS that option, far more than Dougie ever has been. If things do flatten out this could haunt them.

    For our lads I think it all hinges on the batting, guys getting starts have to go on although this looks like it could be a pitch where you are never really in. I'm expecting Mitch Marsh to be the surprise packet with the ball, he has an unnerving ability to find the right length to bowl where as I think Josh and Sidds sometimes struggle with that. Glad we have such a fighter like Neville down at 7, I think his runs will be crucial in this series, that tail is probably the worst we've had in years.

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