England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Chester-le-Street August 7, 2013

Bird in line if Harris not risked


Jackson Bird could play his first Test of this Ashes tour after being named in Australia's 12 for the fourth Investec Test at Chester-le-Street, starting on Friday. Given the three-day turnaround between Tests, the main issue facing the selectors surrounds their management of the injury-prone fast bowler Ryan Harris, who was rested in the West Indies last year when the team faced a similar back-to-back Test scenario.

If he plays on Friday, it will be only the second time in his career that Harris has played three consecutive Tests and the first time he broke down in the third of those games, the Boxing Day Ashes Test of 2010-11. On that occasion Harris suffered a serious ankle injury but he has had a number of other problems during his short Test career, including shoulder surgery last year and a chronic knee injury.

Harris was left out in the Caribbean last year after he took five wickets in 37.4 overs and scored an important half-century in the Barbados Test. A three-day gap between matches, combined with his workload, general fatigue and the fact that he had battled a stomach bug in Barbados led the selectors to take a conservative approach and sit Harris out for the next Test in Trinidad, despite his strong form.

The circumstances on this occasion are strikingly similar. Again there is a three-day turnaround after the Old Trafford Test, where Harris bowled 38 overs and was off the field at times due to a stomach complaint. Harris appeared exhausted when leaving the field at the end of the third day in Manchester and although the rain on the final day gave him some extra recovery time, the Australians will want to see how Harris performs at training on Thursday before making a decision.

"In my mind I'm confident Ryano will be fine," captain Michael Clarke said on Wednesday. "Us not bowling on that last day because of the rain is definitely going to help our bowlers. It gives them another day to recover, and I don't think any of the quicks who bowled in the Test have been bowling many overs in the nets over the last couple of days. There will be plenty of treatment, recovery, rehab. I'm confident he will be fine."

After Australia's strong showing in Manchester, the selectors would be keen to choose the same side, all things being equal. Bird is the only inclusion in the 12 for Chester-le-Street from outside the 11 who played at Old Trafford, meaning there will be no recall for Ashton Agar, while other squad members including James Faulkner, Phillip Hughes, Ed Cowan and Matthew Wade have also missed out as expected. Clarke said Bird would offer plenty if selected.

"He was picked because he was one of out best bowlers no matter the conditions," Clarke said. "We know if there is a bit in the wicket he is a very good seam bowler and he has shown that in first-class cricket for Tassie. Have a look at his record and he has performed just as well away from home on flat wickets. He offers this squad a lot and if he is given an opportunity he will grab it with both hands."

Australia squad Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin, Jackson Bird, Ryan Harris, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hamish on August 9, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    @dustybin, the only obvious weak point is his wrist position, which can maye not be as good for swinging it a lot/bowling at a faster pace. His strengths: his height and bounce, durability, nagging accuracy and just pure ability to take wickets. Such strengths have given him a record that he averages under 20 in both FC and tests.

  • d on August 9, 2013, 8:53 GMT

    For Harris read Tremlett. Opponents hate facing them. Their figures look really good..except the numbers of tests they've each played since their debuts. Both big heavy blokes whose very size puts huge strain on their bodies. Lithe slender blokes like Walsh/Mcgrath are more durable. For those of us who've not seen him-what are Bird's good & bad points?

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2013, 8:37 GMT

    I have been calling for Bird's inclusion as a line and length control merchant for the entire tour. He also has a gentle easy action which means he is capable of long spells. Besides all of this, his 107 FC wickets at 19 speak for themselves. He is a class act and I can't wait for him to be able to aspire to be the next Pigeon!!

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    No need to play Lyon, in the 4 other test matches played Chester-le-Street spinners have only taken 14 wickets at 40 compared to pace bowlers who have taken 96 wickets at 27, so Smith, Clarke and Warner should take on spinning duties and try buy some wickets, having an extra quick will help keep Harris workload down

  • paul on August 9, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    Play the four fast bowlers and use smith as the spinner. Young smith has certainly won me over as a player and harris,bird, siddle and starc looks strong.

  • Chris on August 9, 2013, 4:16 GMT

    No need to rest Harris "just in case" unless he is actually struggling physically in some way. Clarke's point is well made, the last day at Old Trafford was almost completely washed out, so it's really more of a four day turnaround rather than three.

    Starc has to play too. You can't tell a fast bowler you want more consistency out of him when showing him none in return. Resting Starc with no physical issues from every second test is only going to hurt his progress, not help it. Especially if you play him on the slower, more spin-friendly pitches and rest him from the faster, more fast bowler friendly pitches.

    He had to toil away in tough conditions at Trent Bridge and Old Trafford, but was rested from the better pace conditions at Lords, and this test promises a better fast bowler pitch also.

    Great way to break a fast bowlers spirit, rest him from all the pitches that might help him and play him on all the ones that won't!

  • rob on August 9, 2013, 2:40 GMT

    @ TomPrice "Harris is quality but surely he'll be rested for a dead rubber". .. I wouldn't say this is a dead rubber at all. We are 2-0 down with 2 to play. The Ashes may be gone but the series isn't. It's possible that we could tie it up 2-2. .. OK, now that the laughter has died down let me explain. .. This is a 10 Test series in effect. We've played 3 so far so to give up with 7 left to play would be totally contrary to our general attitude towards sport. .. England fans may not be able to see my point, but believe me, I'm sure the Aussie players still feel as though there is plenty left to play for.

  • Rod on August 8, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    The irony is that the Rhino is going to be even more effective in Australia than he is here but I'll eat my shoes if Harris makes it through all nine test matches, bearing in mind that the ground tends to be harder in Australia than it is here. Harris is a class act, but he's a big heavy guy who puts tremendous strain on his joints in his delivery stride. If I was an Australian selector, I'd be saving him for the home series, given that the ashes are staying in England for the next two matches (or five months if you prefer it put that way). Harris is taking his wickets at 18 a piece, better than McGrath and better than most of the great West Indian quicks like Marshall and Holding. Australia need him to win the ashes at home. They should remember that the man is on borrowed time and that it is several years since he even played through three matches on the spin. They also need to give Bird a chance to show what he can do in the next two matches. They might be pleasantly surprised.

  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2013, 15:24 GMT

    Why Aussie's still believe in the same batting line up? If they really want to win, they should do some urgent replacement in No.3 position. Both Usman Khawaja and Philip Hughes are really waste. They should give a chance to some responsible players like Adam Voges or George Bailey. They can't be stamped as limited over cricketers, players who can play basic cricket shots can perform in any format. I would like to see David Warner opens with Rogers. Warner won't suits any other place and they are having not much options in that position. Shane Watson can bat at No.6. The interesting thing is Aussie's really don't need any specialist spinners like Lyon or Agar. If they are willing to give a chance to some fast blowers, that can do some wonders. If Harris or Pattinson is not fit, then Faulkner, Johnson, Mckay..etc., a lot of options are there.

  • Nicholas on August 8, 2013, 14:39 GMT

    Michael Clarke says "I don't think anyone is here to 'give them a go'. That's not in any Test cricket and certainly not an Ashes series, especially the position we're sitting in now. It's about picking your best 11 players."

    But in reality over half the squad there are just passengers and this entire series has/will be just about giving people a go.