Phoenix-like, Bird is set to rise for the Ashes

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Jackson Bird looks set to make the Ashes squad, after being rested from the third round of the Sheffield Shield, along with Australia’s first-choice pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. It’s an honour the reliable seamer greatly deserves.

    Bird is underrated by many fans, who are quick to call for the likes of Chadd Sayers or Jason Behrendorff to act as the number one back-up paceman.

    There is tremendous sympathy about for the likes of Sayers and former Test players Peter Nevill and Ed Cowan, who apparently have been treated harshly by the Australian selectors.

    Bird does not seem to enjoy the same level of backing from supporters, despite returning fantastic figures across his stop-start Test career, which has stretched over five years.

    In eight Tests, the tall right-armer has grabbed 34 wickets at an average of 27. This is all the more impressive when you consider Bird’s never had a decent run in the side to build momentum, with his matches spread across four stints in the team.

    Nevill got 17 Tests on the trot from debut, yet barely an hour passes that I don’t read a comment bemoaning his “lack of opportunity” in the national line-up. Similarly, Cowan was given 18 consecutive matches, despite turning in ordinary performances, just like Nevill.

    Jackson Bird celebrates

    Ross Setford/SNPA via AP

    The Tasmanian shapes as a perfect replacement should one of the top-choice trio get injured. The second Ashes Test will be played under lights at Adelaide and Bird has taken 31 wickets at 24 in day-night first-class matches, including six wickets against Pakistan in Brisbane last summer.

    The following Tests will be played at the WACA, MCG and SCG, where Bird has brilliant first-class bowling averages of 23, 19 and 17 respectively.

    The 195cm quick has made a terrific start to the Sheffield Shield season as well, currently equal-second on the wicket-taking table behind only Starc, with 12 wickets at 22.

    Australia are spoiled for back-up quicks, with the likes of Sayers, Behrendorff and Chris Tremain all consistently elite performers in the Shield. But, for now, that trio deserves to be in line behind Bird, who has done all that could be expected of him during his brief Test career.

    He was fiercely unlucky to be leapfrogged by Joe Mennie during the Tests against South Africa last summer, with the selectors citing the excuse that Mennie was the better batsman. Perhaps stung by that criticism, Bird has since averaged 27 with the bat in his seven first-class matches.

    An all-rounder he isn’t, a quality bowler he is.

    In the first two rounds of the Shield, he has operated with his trademark accuracy, conceding a miserly 2.8 runs per over. Unable to boast the eye-catching pace of Starc or Cummins, Bird – like Hazlewood – maintains a nagging line and length, until one delivery does just enough through the air or off the seam to undo the batsman.

    Thanks to his height and upright action he earns disconcerting bounce, particularly on Australia’s hard pitches, where Bird has the wonderful Test record of 24 wickets at 24 from five matches.

    If he does get an Ashes call-up, Jackson Bird has the ability and experience to make a big impact.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (104)

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:22am
      BurgyGreen said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      Bird is great, easily better than any of the English bowlers in Australian conditions. I’m definitely happy with his selection in the squad, I just think that Behrendorff is a little bit better. There’s not much in it and it’s harsh on Bird but that’s just how it is when pace stocks are so excellent.

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:24am
      Matth said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      I completely agree. Bird is quality as his short test record indicates. He has never let anyone down. I don’t see him as the guy that will take the lead with aggression and clumps of wickets, but he doesn’t need to be. And he’s had a few tests, so we won’t be throwing in a debutante at short notice in an Ashes Test.

    • November 10th 2017 @ 8:07am
      Curious George said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      I like the guy

      A no nonsense player, much like our whole pace attack

      I hope he at least gets one match, cant see Cummins playing the whole series

      Wouldnt mind Sayers getting a run if we manage to win the first 3 tests (doubt it though)

    • November 10th 2017 @ 8:07am
      Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      I just wish our bowlers would get an equal chance to compete for a spot. Behrendorff and NCN have only had one game each.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:52am
        The Bush said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        I read that NCN has broken down again?

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Michael Keeffe said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        I think we’ve placed too much emphasis on these lead up shield games. I think Behrendorff and NCN are both fine bowlers but unless either of them were exceptionally better than Bird in Shield games then there should be no way they go past Bird.

        Bird has a good test record from his 8 tests and at fc level has a much better strike rate and average than NCN. At half the games of Bird, Behrendorff has a slightly better average and strike rate as Bird and both have shown a capacity to take big hauls of wickets something NCN has failed to do regularly.

        Anyway I think Bird is very deserved of his next cab off the rank status, but can see a case for Behrendorff to push for higher honours sooner rather than too.

        • Roar Guru

          November 10th 2017 @ 9:35am
          JamesH said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          Dorff has to actually put together a strong season without breaking down before he should seriously be considered over Bird or Sayers. He just doesn’t have enough consistent cricket behind him over the last 18 months. From memory he was injured for most of last season and he’s only played one long form game since March, taking 2/100-odd.

          Our selectors already pick players too often on ‘potential’ and ‘gut feel’, rather than because they are demanding selection through weight of runs/wickets.

          • November 10th 2017 @ 11:06am
            Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

            Dorff was injured for much of last season…and still took 37 wickets. Imagine the whole season.

            • Roar Guru

              November 10th 2017 @ 12:33pm
              JamesH said | November 10th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

              That’s the problem – right now, we can only imagine it.

              • November 11th 2017 @ 9:01am
                Don Freo said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

                Taking wickets has never been a problem.

                Fitness isn’t either because when he’s not fit, they won’t play him…they’ll pick someone else.

      • November 10th 2017 @ 8:54am
        Basil said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        Must you fly the WA flag in every comment?

        • November 10th 2017 @ 9:01am
          Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          Strange comment Basil. Must you bag WA players every comment?

          How about explaining why you don’t rank The Dorff or NCN?

          • November 10th 2017 @ 9:28am
            Basil said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

            Never said I don’t rank them and I don’t see where I have bagged them.

            As usual you’re just trying to twist things around.

            Strange comment Don….

            • November 10th 2017 @ 11:03am
              Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

              What else was the purpose of your comment? You may as well have said nothing otherwise.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 11:18am
                George said | November 10th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

                Hmm, an example of a negative WA comment would be something like:

                “I note how the author unnecessarily prefaces their mention of Mitch Marsh with ‘WA captain’, as if to suggest he’s a high-level performer with the bat in hand.”

              • November 10th 2017 @ 12:22pm
                Basil said | November 10th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                Just stating that you always have to bring everything back to WA.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 12:32pm
                Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

                You’re not reading much comment then. Lots is about the WA side because, in case you haven’t worked it out, I follow them. I actually live in the west and, therefore, share things that I know or think.

                Funny that someone would do that, I suppose.

                Here’s the thing, Basil. Don’t read it if you don’t like it. No one is making you do it.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 1:50pm
                Basil said | November 10th 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

                That’s funny. I recall you chucking a jibe at dan ced when he was putting forth the names of Redbacks players, because, in case you haven’t worked it out, he follows them.

                Seems like you can give it but can’t take it.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 2:45pm
                Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                Nup. Not me. I am a fan of Dan’s comments and often support his passion. I am always supporting Head and Carey.

                His Klinger stuff is pure Dan and most of us read it as his sense of fun.

                Have a go at talking cricket. Your silliness is out of place here.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 5:47pm
                Basil said | November 10th 2017 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

                Yep was you.
                I do talk cricket.
                You’re silliness is out of place here.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 7:49pm
                Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

                Try quoting it.

        • November 10th 2017 @ 2:51pm
          Ben Brown said | November 10th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

          Basil don’t worry mate, everyone knows he’s incredibly biased towards WA, they’re the only players he ever proposes should be in the test team.

          • November 10th 2017 @ 3:22pm
            Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

            There you go, Basil. Support from 2 of the great minds on this site. Your comments align you with them.

            Now THAT’S an identity to quest for.

            • November 10th 2017 @ 5:00pm
              George said | November 10th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

              Better to be angling to be the agent of Mitch Mars… OUT!

            • November 10th 2017 @ 7:38pm
              Basil said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

              Insults as a form of defence as usual Don. Nice.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 7:49pm
                Don Freo said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

                Ah, George/Ben, Bas does see that as an insult. If he thought well of you, he would have seen it as a compliment.

              • November 10th 2017 @ 10:53pm
                Basil said | November 10th 2017 @ 10:53pm | ! Report

                You know what you meant. Always twisting something Don.
                Schoolyard tactics.

    • November 10th 2017 @ 8:08am
      Curious George said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      I was watching the CAXI v England

      If the poms bowl like that in the Ashes we will absolutely pump them backto the Old Blighty

      Mason CRane will be feasted upon, Smith will plunder him and Warner and Maxwell will hole out from his pies

      Be sure to check out the new talent on the scene: Shay Fox, Eva Notty and Alura Jenson.

      • November 10th 2017 @ 10:22am
        jamesb said | November 10th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

        If England do pick Mason Crane, then it will be a bold move. Sure, Crane is promising, and may well be a great bowler down the track. But his first class average is over 40 and he is only 20.

        Mitchell Swepson averages 33 and he is 24, yet, personally, I don’t think Swepson is ready for test cricket.

        • Roar Guru

          November 10th 2017 @ 3:42pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | November 10th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

          Crane will definitely be a bit of a punt. I can imagine that if there’s much of a spinning pitch in Sydney that there’s a good chance he’d play that game though, as he’s the only other spinner other than Ali in the squad. I expect England to replace Stokes in the side with a bowler, so for all the other matches playing 4 quicks plus Ali, but if Sydney looks to take spin they may well go 3 quicks and add the extra spinner. That means Crane, he’s the only option if they go for that.

    • Roar Guru

      November 10th 2017 @ 8:25am
      Ryan H said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Is he the back-up bowler if Starc or Cummins go down? I wonder if that happened might they vault Coulter-Nile or Tremain or the like to suit better.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 9:02am
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        If there was a really late injury just before the test (a McGrath stepped on a ball type thing) then Bird would obviously have to be the man, but if an injury happened further out then there’s a chance that they might bring someone else in and look at Bird more as a Hazlewood replacement. But that being said, with either one of Starc / Cummins alongside Hazlewood and Bird that would probably still be a decent lineup. I think there’s enough difference in how Bird and Hazlewood bowl that they could still complement each other pretty well and we’d still have one real quick enforcer type bowler.

        But then, I don’t know that there are any real like for like replacements for either Starc or Cummins going around at the moment. There are plenty of other good bowlers around, but while guys like NCN and Tremain have been clocked at 145+ at times, I don’t know that they regularly bowl with the pace and hostility you can get from the like of Starc and Cummins. So even looking to these sorts of bowlers, you aren’t going to be saying any is more of a like for like replacement, so if you had to replace them it just comes down to picking your best bowlers while maintaining some variety in attack, rather than necessarily saying that certain bowlers are more of a replacement for Starc or Cummins while others more of a replacement for Hazlewood.

        • Roar Guru

          November 10th 2017 @ 9:42am
          JamesH said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

          I’ve always found the argument that Bird and Hazlewood are too similar to be a bit strange. Yeah, they’re both tall, right-armers who bowl accurately at reasonable pace, extracting awkward bounce and subtle movement… in what world is that a bad thing? Regardless of the setup we’d still have two very different bowlers in Starc/Cummins and Lyon.

          • Roar Guru

            November 10th 2017 @ 3:54pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | November 10th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

            Yeah, I don’t think there’s really enough of a case of bowlers being like other bowlers anywhere in the country to genuinely pick different bowlers as replacements for particular bowlers in the test attack. There’s nobody else in Australia like Starc, and there’s nobody else out there like Cummins. They are significantly different to all bowlers out there that might be options for the team if someone got injured. There are lots of other really good bowlers, but they are all quite different, have their own strengths and their own methods of trying to get batsmen out. So I think it probably comes down to just picking whoever you believe is the next best bowler and going for them, not worrying too much about picking based on who’s most like a direct replacement for the particular bowler that needs replacing.

            • November 10th 2017 @ 4:34pm
              matth said | November 10th 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

              Agree with all that. My only proviso is that I like having the lefty in there somewhere, so if it was Starc to go down, then the Behrendorff should be considered.

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