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Bird to resume red-ball duties early

Paceman's preparations for potential Proteas tour to begin in Tasmania

Three weeks ago Jackson Bird was playing a Magellan Ashes Test on Boxing Day in front of the largest crowd of the summer. Next week he will line up for Tasmania's second XI in Launceston as the Toyota Futures League season resumes.

Playing his first Test in 12 months, Bird went wicketless at the MCG on a pitch officially rated "poor" by the International Cricket Council, and has played just one game in the KFC Big Bash League since. 

He has been unused by Sydney Sixers in their past three matches and not named in the squad that destroyed Brisbane Heat by nine wickets at the SCG on Thursday. 

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Consequently, the fast bowler has made an earlier than might have been expected return to focus on red-ball cricket, with the four-Test tour of South Africa looming. 

Australia are set to announce their Test squad for South Africa on Monday, the same day the Futures League resumes.

Bird will line-up for Tasmania against NSW Metro at UTAS Stadium in Launceston before a likely JLT Sheffield Shield return on February 8 against Queensland at the Gabba.

The members of Australia’s Test squad that are not involved in the Gillette T20 international tri-series are scheduled to fly out to South Africa on February 15. 

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While he didn’t play a Test, Bird was in the squad that last toured South Africa in 2014, which Australia won 2-1 in dramatic fashion.

The 31-year-old has 34 wickets in nine Tests and has been a familiar figure in Australia’s Test squads for the past two years.

But due to conditions and the form of pace trio Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, Bird has largely been resigned to carrying the drinks. 

Former Australia batsman Mike Hussey picked Bird in his squad to tour South Africa, along with Western Australia tyro Jhye Richardson, who made his one-day international debut today in Brisbane. 

Bird played one Test against the Proteas in the 2016-17 summer, the day-night fixture at the Adelaide Oval where the right-armer picked up three wickets including the key scalp of dynamic wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock in the second innings. 

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