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Bird gets nod in new-look Australia XI for final South Africa Test

Bird gets nod in new-look Australia XI for final South Africa Test

ADELAIDE: Jackson Bird has edged out uncapped fast bowler Chadd Sayers for a place in Australia’s pace attack for the third and final Test against South Africa in Adelaide.

Bird, capped five times but overlooked in favour of debutant Joe Mennie for the second Test defeat in Hobart, joins fellow seamers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in a raw team featuring three new batsmen for the day-night match.

Opener Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson will all play their first Tests at Adelaide Oval after selectors wielded the axe following the Hobart humiliation, which gave South Africa an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

Bird will feel relieved, having been the victim of an unusual selection decision for Hobart.

Then-chairman of selectors Rod Marsh said the paceman’s tail-end batting, rather than his bowling, stood against his inclusion.

Local media castigated Marsh for that rationale and the former Test wicket-keeper promptly resigned amid the acrimony that followed Australia’s innings and 80-run humiliation at Bellerive Oval last week.

“Bird took five-for in the last Test match he played, he’s bowled well with the pink ball in the [Sheffield] Shield games that he’s played, bowled well in the nets out the back and deserves an opportunity,” captain Steve Smith said at a media conference on Wednesday.

“So it’s unlucky for Chadd to be missing out on his home ground, but we’ve gone with Jackson Bird.”

Smith said he gave no thought to an all-out pace attack, opting to play under-pressure spinner Nathan Lyon.

Renshaw, a Yorkshire-born 20-year-old raised in New Zealand, will partner David Warner at the top, with Victoria wicket-keeper/batsman Peter Handscomb and left-hander Nic Maddinson fifth and sixth in the order.

The trio deposed Joe Burns, Adam Voges and Callum Ferguson, who all failed at Hobart, but the rookies’ records in first-class cricket have been solid, rather than outstanding.

Hard-hitting New South Wales batsman Maddinson has played two Twenty20 Internationals for Australia but brings a modest average of 37.65 in 59 first-class games.

Smith backed his state team-mate as a player who could ‘tear any attack apart’ on his day.

The abrasive Matthew Wade, recalled in place of wicket-keeper Peter Nevill, is the fifth change from the XI that crumbled in Hobart.

“I’m happy with the team that I’ve got,” Smith said. “This series has been disappointing the way it has gone for us but I’m actually really excited about the young guys coming into the group.”

No team has ever swept Australia on their own pitches in a series of three or more Tests and the hosts can be expected to fight hard to restore pride under the lights of Adelaide Oval.

The hosts, however, will enjoy a slender advantage of experience with the pink ball, having beaten New Zealand in the first ever day-night Test at the same ground 12 months ago.

But a year is a long time in cricket and South Africa’s rampaging attack is a far different beast to the off-colour bowlers who reported for duty for New Zealand.

Apart from a determination to whitewash Australia, South Africa bring a chip on their shoulder after their stand-in captain Faf du Plessis was hauled before an ICC hearing in Adelaide on Tuesday and found guilty of ball-tampering during the Hobart Test.

But he was cleared to play in Adelaide.

Worried about the pink ball wearing too quickly, ground staff prepared a grassy pitch last year and Australia closed out a bowler-dominated victory in three days.

The pink ball is still expected to hoop around during the evening sessions but curator Damian Hough has promised a fairer pitch for the batsmen after a number complained last year.


AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (captain), Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.

SOUTH AFRICA (from): Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (captain), Temba Bavuma, J.P. Duminy, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough (England) and Nigel Llong (England).

TV umpire: Aleem Dar (Pakistan).

Match referee: Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe).

Published in Dawn November 24th, 2016

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