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

Bird in line if Harris not risked

Brydon Coverdale at Chester-le-Street

August 7, 2013

Comments: 88 | Text size: A | A

Jackson Bird bowls during a nets session, Chester-le-Street, August 7, 2013
Jackson Bird's immediate Ashes prospects appear to rest on the fitness of Ryan Harris © Getty Images

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

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Posted by Mitty2 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.

Posted by DustyBin 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?

Posted by   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!!

Posted by   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

Posted by sidgregory 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.

Posted by funkybluesman 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!

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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