Pacers Sayers, Bird named in Australia’s Test squad

Melbourne, Jan 20 (IANS) Uncapped fast bowler Chadd Sayers and fellow seamer Jackson Bird were named in Australia’s 14-man squad on Wednesday for the two Test cricket matches against New Zealand next month.

The pair replace fast bowler Scott Boland and left-arm orthodox spinner Steve O’Keefe from the washed-out final Test of the Australian summer, while Peter Siddle returns after recovering from an ankle injury he suffered during the Boxing Day Test.

“We are delighted to welcome Chadd Sayers into the squad for the first time and his inclusion is thoroughly deserved. Both he 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,” national selector Rod Marsh said in a Cricket Australia (CA) release.

CA’s selectors will be sweating on the fitness of Siddle and Victorian teammate James Pattinson, who missed Monday’s KFC Big Bash League (BBL) clash for the Melbourne Renegades with left shin soreness.

The Tests will be played in Wellington (February 12-16 ) and Christchurch (February 20-24).

Pattinson, Australia’s leading paceman in the Test series against the West Indies when he took 13 wickets in three matches, is included as he recovers from soreness in his left shin. Cricket Australia (CA)’s medical team is continuing to monitor his progress.

Australia’s speed stocks have been thoroughly tested this summer, with the retirement of Mitchell Johnson and injuries to pacemen Mitchell Starc, Patrick Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Siddle.

“We are hopeful James Pattinson will be able to overcome the shin soreness he has been suffering with and continue the fine form he showed in this summer’s Tests when he bowled at good pace, while Peter Siddle is on the verge of playing again following the ankle injury he suffered during the West Indies series,” Rod said.

“Our fast bowling depth is certainly being tested because of injury and retirement but the positive part of that is it means there are opportunities for other players to stand up in domestic cricket and stake their claims.

“On that basis it is an exciting time for Australian cricket.”

The remainder of the squad is full of familiar faces. Steve Smith will lead the squad with David Warner by his side as his deputy.

Queensland duo Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja are set to build on their careers at the top of the order, with Smith and first-class veteran Adam Voges following behind, and Shaun Marsh waiting in the wings as the reserve batsman.

Mitchell Marsh is the sole all-rounder in the squad after his improvements with ball continue to outshine his lack of opportunity with the bat. Peter Nevill is the designated gloveman, keeping to off-spinner Nathan Lyon and fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood, Sayers, Siddle, Pattinson and Bird.

“The batting line-up for the tour picks itself with all of the top order having produced excellent results during this summer’s Test series against New Zealand and the West Indies, Rod said.

“We know that New Zealand is going to come hard at us, that their players will want some form of pay-back for the Test series loss suffered in the series we played in this country late last year and that they will want to give captain Brendon McCullum a send-off into international retirement with a series win against their near-neighbours.

“The fact that we can move back to the top of the ICC Rankings if we win the series is an added incentive for us but the players will be hungry to do well and we are anticipating a tough but also, hopefully, a successful series.”

The squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (Captain), Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Shaun Marsh, Chadd Sayers.

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