Qantas Tour of South Africa

Sayers says all is ‘sweet’ with Hohns

Seamer recounts nervously taking National Selector's call after forgettable Shield match

Andrew Ramsey, in Adelaide

13 February 2018, 06:07 PM

Even though he has cleared the air with Trevor Hohns over their recent differences, Chadd Sayers admits his heart skipped a beat when the national selection chair's name popped up on his phone Tuesday to announce an incoming call.

Whispers had swirled throughout the function room at Monday night's Allan Border Medal presentation that the extent of the hamstring injury to seamer Jackson Bird would preclude him from the upcoming Qantas Test Tour of South Africa.

Given that Hohns – in the wake of robust public debate that followed announcement of the 15-man touring party for the four Tests against the Proteas – confirmed that Bird and Sayers had been effectively competing for the same berth, it seemed logical that the South Australia paceman would be summoned.

But despite being the JLT Sheffield Shield's leading wicket-taker since the start of the 2016-17 season, Sayers began "second-guessing" whether he remained the next in line should Bird be ruled out of the tour due to injury.

After all, on the same weekend that the Tasmania quick sustained his hamstring damage, Sayers had endured a forgettable match against Victoria on his beloved Adelaide Oval where he finished a game wicketless for just the second time during his reign as the king of the Shield competition's bowlers.

So while there was no lingering anxiety over his relationship with Hohns after Sayers had pointedly questioned his exclusion from the initial South Africa touring party in a radio interview – "we had a good chat after missing out, so we're sweet", Sayers claims – he was unsure what news the selection boss was about to deliver.

Watch all of Chadd Sayers' 62 Shield wickets

"It wasn't the best timing to go out and take none-for," Sayers conceded in Adelaide today, shortly after Hohns had confirmed his place in the squad and his departure for South Africa on Thursday morning.

"But I'm feeling good, and I'm feeling like if I get a chance, I'll do well.

"It's unfortunate for Jackson but it gives me another opportunity in the Test squad and I'm looking forward to going to South Africa.

"I still feel like the ball's coming out well, obviously I didn't get the results in the Shield game just gone but I felt like I bowled pretty well.

"Sometimes you get wickets, and sometimes they play and miss so I still feel really good going into the tour."

Sayers in for injured Bird, confirms Smith

While the majority of Australia's front-line bowlers have ploughed through a demanding home season with international and KFC Big Bash League duties over recent months, Sayers' slow resumption at Shield level might be attributable to his lack of top-level cricket.

Since he came within a whisker of a Baggy Green Cap in consecutive Tests, against South Africa in Adelaide then Pakistan at the Gabba in December late 2016, he was not sighted in an Australia squad until the early exchanges of this summer's Ashes series where he was not required. Without a BBL contract due to his perceived lack of effectiveness with the white ball, the 30-year-old has been confined to Adelaide Premier Cricket ranks since before Christmas.

And prior to last weekend's Shield loss to the reigning champions, Sayers' most recent red-ball outing was for his grade club Glenelg against (ex-Australia batter) Mark Cosgrove's Northern Districts in which Sayers returned match figures of 5-67 from 22.1 overs.

Carey reflects on start of international career

The naggingly accurate seamer, whose top bowling speed of around 135km/h has rendered him a victim of the Australia set-up's preference for new-ball bowlers boasting 'velocity', understands that he will be travelling to South Africa as an understudy.

Hohns made it clear soon after the touring party was finalised that Bird had been included as back-up for Test spearhead Josh Hazlewood and, now that the first-choice replacement has himself succumbed to injury, Sayers will fill that specific role.

But if the pitches that South Africa venues rolled out for their recent 2-1 Test series triumph over the world's top-ranked team, India, provide a guide, then Sayers believes they will suit his skills should opportunity beckon.

And he likened himself to Proteas swing and seam specialist Vernon Philander, who Sayers points out bowls with a similar gift for guile if also an absence of express pace but has proved South Africa's most successful Test bowler since his memorable debut against Australia at Cape Town in 2011.

"I've been watching him ever since he started," Sayers said of Philander who claimed 5-15 as Australia were skittled for 47 in his maiden Test and now boasts 188 wickets at 21.86 from his 50 appearances.

"I guess we're similar bowlers, not the fiery big quicks and just put the ball on the spot and let that do the talking.

Philander fires his way to five-fer

"Watching the previous Test series against India, they (South Africa) spice up the wickets a little bit, which will be nice.

"By all reports, they're going to dish up some green seamers.

"As we all know, the three big quicks (for Australia, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Hazlewood) are going to get the first crack as always, and they've been brilliant over the last series (against England).

"So I think I'll be waiting for an injury (to get an opportunity), but I'm over there and I'll be putting my best foot forward."

Qantas tour of South Africa

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.

Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24

First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3