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Bird, Sayers bolt into Test squad

Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers in 14-man squad to tour NZ, replacing O'Keefe and Boland

Uncapped South Australia seamer Chadd Sayers and Tasmania quick Jackson Bird have been included in Australia’s 14-man squad for the two-Test Qantas Tour of 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.

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

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

"We are delighted to welcome Chadd Sayers into the squad for the first time and his inclusion is thoroughly deserved," National selector 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."

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Siddle hasn’t played competitive cricket since the Melbourne Test last month but is set to return for the Commonwealth Bank Victorian Bushrangers Shield match against the Tasmanian Tigers at the MCG on February 3.

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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.

Watch: Rod Marsh discusses the Australia Test squad

"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,"  Marsh said.

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

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

"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.”

Baggy Green recall: Bird // Getty Images

Sayers came from obscurity with an incredible 2012-13 season, topping the Sheffield Shield wicket tally with 48 at 18.52 to be named South Australia’s player of the season.

Those efforts earned the diminutive right-armer selection on Australia A’s tour of the British Isles in the winter of 2013. Sayers was the leading wicket-taker on tour with 11 scalps at 11.54, outclassing fellow squad members James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon.

The 28-year-old picked up 36 wickets the following season and again represented Australia A, this time against India A in Brisbane where he claimed eight wickets across the two four-day fixtures.

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However, the dream run came to abrupt halt when an ankle injury in late 2014 curtailed his 2014-15 summer. After two separate surgeries on the troublesome joint in 2015 he returned to South Australia's Shield side last November, making a successful comeback this season to pick up 16 wickets in four matches for the Redbacks before the Big Bash break.

While Tasmania are rooted to the bottom of the Sheffield Shield ladder, Bird has been the standout bowler for the Tigers.

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In five Shield matches this summer, the lanky right-armer has taken 22 wickets at 24, second only in the competition to South Australia’s Joe Mennie who has 24 scalps.

Bird has shortened his run-up to the crease by 10 metres this season, allowing him to bowl more overs in a day which is reflected by the 196 overs he’s bowled in Shield cricket – the most by any player.

Traditionally, New Zealand wickets mirror those found in the United Kingdom; softer, grassier pitches that encourage seam bowling.

Bupa Support Team Head Coach Darren Lehmann says the conditions found across the Tasman could see Australia put aside their ‘velocity philosophy’ and select bowlers who can move the ball in the air and off the pitch, hence the duo’s inclusion.

"I think New Zealand will be different, where it moves around a little bit," Lehmann said after the West Indies Test series.

"Pace is not the biggest thing for us. It's actually good control and (putting) the ball in the right areas.

"It's about getting the right attack for New Zealand first and foremost and that might be a totally different attack than our 'normal' attack, if you like."

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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 allrounder 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 first Test against the Black Caps is on February 12 in Wellington before moving on to Christchurch for the second and final Test on February 20.

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