Steven Smith is the only member of the Australian squad to have made a Test tour of New Zealand before © Getty Images
In an assignment that can earn Steven Smith’s men the No. 1 Test ranking, Bird and Sayers have been included as pace support for Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, in expectation of well grassed and seaming pitches. Steve O’Keefe, who took 3 for 63 on Test debut, and Scott Boland were dropped from the 14-man squad for Australia’s most recent Test — the rain-marred draw in Sydney against West Indies — to make room for Bird and Sayers.
Bird played his most recent Test for Australia in Durham on the 2013 Ashes tour, while Sayers has never played for the national team. However he has turned out for Australia A, including on the tour of the British Isles that preceded the Ashes three years ago.
“We are delighted to welcome Chadd Sayers into the squad for the first time and his inclusion is thoroughly deserved,” selection chairman Rod Marsh said. “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.
“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.
“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 batting line-up arrives as expected following a strong showing by Australia’s top order at home this summer. Mitchell Marsh remains the selectors’ allrounder of choice.
Australia’s most recent Test tour of New Zealand was in 2010. Of that touring party only Smith, who was then a young and uncapped project player, will be making the trip again.
Australia squad: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Chadd Sayers, Jackson Bird.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo