The two bowlers widely considered hard done by to miss Test call-ups in the home summer, Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers, have won selection for next month’s tour in New Zealand.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann’s declaration after the Sydney Test that they would pick bowlers best suited to New Zealand conditions, which are expected to favour movement off the pitch and through the air, has run true, with the recall of Bird for the first time since the 2013 Ashes and the maiden selection for South Australian swing bowler Sayers.
The inclusion of Bird and Sayers, for Steve O’Keefe and Scott Boland, are the only changes to Australia’s squad that finished the series against the West Indies.
While Victorian Boland was groomed for selection – he was in the squad for Australia’s past two Tests – he has been overlooked in favour of two bowlers who rely more on movement than pace.
Sayers, 28, dominated Adelaide club cricket for years but had to wait for an opportunity with the Redbacks because of suspicions his lack of pace would be exposed at Sheffield Shield level. In his 26 matches over the past five years he has taken 101 wickets at an average of 24.5.
Chief selector Rod Marsh said Sayers’ promotion to the Test squad was “richly deserved”.
Bird, 29, thrived in the two home Tests he played in 2012-13. He only played one Test in the 2013 Ashes but returned home early due to stress fractures in his back. The Tasmanian ranks second for wickets this season in the Shield, with 22 at 24. Sayers ranks fifth, with 16 at 25.81.
The top wicket-taker this season is South Australia’s Joe Mennie, with 24 at 18.88. His strength is relentless accuracy, typically not moving the ball as much as Redbacks teammates Sayers and Daniel Worrall.
“Both he [Sayers] and Jackson Bird can swing the ball and operate at a lively pace and we believe both will be well suited to the conditions we are likely to encounter in New Zealand,” Marsh said.
Marsh said he was optimistic James Pattinson would recover from the shin soreness that has plagued him since the New Year’s Test against the West Indies in time for the first Test, which begins on February 12 in Wellington. The second will begin on February 20 in Christchurch.
If Australia win the series, which will mark the international swansong for Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum, they will rise to No.1 in the ICC’s Test team rankings.
SQUAD: Steve Smith (c), Jackson Bird, Joe Burns, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Chadd Sayers, Adam Voges, David Warner.