Sussex v Australians, Tour match, Hove, 2nd day July 27, 2013

Bird's numbers proving hard to ignore


Jackson Bird just keeps taking wickets. Eleven at 16.18 in his only two Tests. Nine at 24.00 for Australia A and the Australians in England this year. His first-class tally now stands at 107 victims at 19.71. Statistics don't always tell the whole truth but such figures are hard to ignore, and Bird continued to build a strong case to replace the injured James Pattinson for the Old Trafford Test with a couple of searching spells against Sussex on the second day in Hove.

More than any other member of Australia's attack, Bird made the batsmen play again and again, giving them precious few loose balls to release the pressure. He swung it away from the right-handers early and kept his lines tight, collecting 2 for 33 that should have been three-for when a catch at slip was spilled. Without question he outbowled Mitchell Starc and James Faulkner and after being overlooked for Ryan Harris at Lord's, placed himself at the front of the queue to replace Pattinson in Manchester.

"They went with Ryan and Ryan did very well," Bird said. "It was probably the right selection. I'm not bitter or anything like that. Ryan is a world-class bowler and he showed that at Lord's. But if you're in the squad you're definitely a chance and you have to prepare before each Test match as if you're going to play.

"I feel like I've been bowling pretty well the last couple of weeks. I've been bowling well in the nets and I feel like I'm pretty close to being at 100%. And I suppose if selected next week in Manchester, I feel like I'm ready to do a good job but that's still a week or so away and we've still got a day of cricket tomorrow to concentrate on.

"I suppose there is always the motivation if you're outside the squad to do well, to make the final XI, but I can't control selection. It's not something that I think about all the time. All I can control is taking wickets for Australia and I took a couple today but there's still a bit of work to do tomorrow."

Bird, 26, has been a first-class cricketer for less than two years but has a mature approach, and knows his game well. Last year's Australia A tour of England was a significant learning experience for Bird, who struggled in the unfamiliar conditions and managed only seven wickets at 44.71. His success in three appearances on this Ashes tour are a strong indication that he had accurately assessed his deficiencies on that trip.

"I was probably a bit impatient when I came here last year," Bird said. "Everyone talks about how much the Dukes ball moves around and when I got here last year it didn't really do that. I was trying to swing the ball too much and trying to get too much sideways movement. When the wickets are flat over here the English batters punish bad bowling.

"I just came over here this year knowing that I had to really be diligent on my lines and lengths, especially when the sun is out I really have to build pressure. I feel like I've done that. And when it is cloudy and the conditions suit you, not to get too carried away. You've still got to hit your lines and lengths and that's probably the main thing I've noticed."

Line and length might sound straightforward but the value of Bird's control quickly became apparent when Starc and Faulkner both sent down some wayward deliveries in Hove. His consistent, accurate bowling brought him success in his first two Tests against Sri Lanka last summer in Australia and after nearly four months on the sidelines with a back injury that forced him home from the Test tour of India in February, Bird has moved closer and closer to another opportunity.

"I didn't think I was going to be fit enough in time for the tour," he said. "It's a bonus being here on the Ashes tour and if I play well it's just a bonus. I am definitely enjoying being over here."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rod on July 30, 2013, 18:25 GMT

    If they can't call up Cummins, Bird is certainly the next choice to form a trio of seamers with Harris and Siddle. Personally, I thought Agar played correctly enough and had enough time against fast bowling to turn himself into an opener. It takes a very good delivery to get rid of him and he's been unlucky with two of his four dismissals. He also seemed to me to have both an excellent temperament and technique and he's not going to set the world alight as a slow left armer. If Watson turned himself into an opener somehow, Agar could certainly do it. There's certainly one vacancy at the top of the Australian order and the next three test matches will show us whether there is actually two vacancies to open. Old Trafford is famous for the rain and the weather forecast looks indifferent, so Australia should have the luxury of selecting for the future home series if they don't win. We deserve a bit more of an contest than the capitulation at Lords.

  • Rod on July 30, 2013, 18:08 GMT

    I like the look of what I've seen of Bird and completely agree that Harris and Bird should open the bowling and Siddle is the third seamer. Siddle is an underated cricketer; you don't get to be the number six fast bowler in the world by being a pie thrower and his "we can win it" mentality and all-out effort is exactly what Australia need. The real problem Australia have is the openers. Rogers is a stop gap and it puzzles me that they've picked him over Kaitich, who I remember as more limpet-like and difficult to dislodge. Watson has a faulty technique and shouldn't be opening the innings (personally I don't think he actually offers enough at test level, although having him as fourth seamer is useful, I suppose). Warner seems to have a suspect temperament (I mean as an opener, not as a night-clubber). He is too aggressive for me, which means a few big scores and lots of injudicious attacking play, but a lot of poor scores as well). I don't see a patient batsman with a solid technique.

  • Chris on July 30, 2013, 0:47 GMT

    I completely agree with you Brydon, but you've underestimated the current Australian selector's incompetence, not to mention their ignorance of statistics. These are the same people who continue to overlook Australia's glaringly obvious spin solution Steve O'Keefe for absolutey no good reason at all. The four bowlers for the next test would obviously be O'Keefe, Siddle, Harris and Bird. However considering that they blundered by not sending O'Keefe over and the fact that neither Agar nor Lyon are good enough (in fact they are not much better than part-timers Clarke and Smith), our best bet would be to just pick 4 fast bowlers. For that I'd consider Siddle, Harris, Bird and either Faulkner or Sayers. I was disappointed in Pattinson - his first bad series really, but he deserves another chance when he recovers. Bird has to play because our only chance of winning would be for Bird and Harris to open the bowling and have Siddle come on first change.

  • Cameron on July 29, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    @2MikeGattings - you are joking right? Panesar can't get a game for his county and Taylor was let off twice. Bird will play. If you are going to tell jokes at least attempt to make them funny!

  • H on July 29, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    @Lyndon McPaul as an England fan I'd love it if you left out Siddle to accommodate Agar. Against the left-handers Agar's looked good, but the right-handers have been able to play him with relative ease. Bairstow got a good one at Trent Bridge, but he isn't a particularly tough man to get out at the moment. Full and straight does it.

    It's got to be Lyon and Smith as the spin options, surely? While a lot of people have speculated that Monty being called up means we'll play two spinners, I doubt that's going to happen. He's there to give us the option, or if Swann gets a niggle, but we will probably go in with one frontline spinner and have Root as a handy spin option without weakening our batting. Smith offers the same for you.

    The only question is Agar or Lyon as the frontline option. I'd go Lyon, he's a proven Test match performer and given how well Hauritz did in 2009, Lyon (who I think is a better bowler) should do well. But I could see them sticking with Agar.

  • Dummy4 on July 29, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    If the old trafford wicket is particularly dry it might be prudent to drop Siddle and play Australia's best 2 newball Bowlers in Bird and Harris and then the 2 spinners. That way Australia can still have maximum impact upfront but also have the bowlers to exploit the conditions later in the middle overs. This may mean that Watson may bowl a fair few overs which is not ideal for the impact it may have on his batting but we need to pull out all stops to win. The dillemma though is that Australia's newball bowlers need to go 4 wickets deep to create enough pressure for the spinners to really thrive and it might be a big ask to do with ony 2 specialist seamers. Alternatively Smith could be trusted as the second spinner and Siddle stays but if Agar is included as the second spinner; I feel it is Siddle that would have to stand aside.

  • Brady on July 29, 2013, 6:18 GMT

    I think Harris and Bird will be an excellent opening combination. They will make the batsmen play and can do a bit in the air and off the pitch. Going by what's avaiable in the squad, I would select Lyon ahead of Agar. The English will most likely continue to prepare drier pitches that will take turn and Lyon will be essential if Australia manage to win the toss and bat first. I would leave the batsmen unchanged.

  • Peter on July 29, 2013, 1:52 GMT

    Swann doesn't have a doosra, he has one that goes straight on which he gets a lot of left handers with. They think it will turn and leave it only to find it carries on to hit their stumps or pad. I think a doosra helps as it puts that extra doubt in the batsman's mind, I think it certainly helps in the short form of the game because it stops players teeing off against you but I don't think you need it in test matches. Swann isn't great in odi's and 20/20 because he doesn't have a doosra but he gets a lot of wickets in tests.

  • Tom on July 28, 2013, 23:44 GMT

    Bird? Bring him on. Aussie selectors clearly don't think he is among their 4 best seamers, and we've already seen off Pattinson.

  • w on July 28, 2013, 22:25 GMT

    "The English batters punish bad bowling" - it's batsmen.