Chadd Sayers will get the chance to emulate his international role model Vernon Philander in the South African’s backyard after injury ruled Jackson Bird out of the Australian touring party that leaves on Thursday for four Tests in March and April.
Bird’s hamstring strain meant a call to Sayers from the selection chairman Trevor Hohns, for a shorter and happier conversation than the previous exchange about why the South Australian had been left out in the first place. Having been granted a ticket to South Africa through one injury, Sayers is realistic about the fact it would most likely take another during the series to see him debut.
However he is eager to demonstrate – on South African pitches likely to aid seamers – that his ultra-consistent, stump-to-stump fast-medium with a hint of movement through the air and off the pitch can do the sort of job for Australia that Philander has done for the Proteas over the past seven years, starting with a memorable series against Australia in 2011.
“I’ve been watching him ever since he started [in 2011], I guess [we are] similar bowlers,” Sayers said of Philander. “Not the fiery big quicks and just put the ball on the spot and let that do the talking. I’ve been watching his career so far and I’ll keep doing that while I’m over there. I think as we all know the three big quicks are going to get the first crack as always and they’ve been going brilliantly over the last series, so I think I’ll be waiting for an injury, but I’ll be over there now and putting my best foot forward.
“Watching the previous Test series against India, they spice up the wickets a little bit, which would be nice, but obviously there are some water issues going on at the moment over there. By all reports they’re going to dish up some green seamers, which would be nice. [South Africa] play their conditions really well, they’ve got a fiery pace attack, complemented by Vernon, and their batting is brilliant as well. So it’s going to be tough over there in their conditions to win a series but I think we’ve got the firepower to do that.”
Australia’s captain Steven Smith, whom Sayers dismissed cheaply on a grassy Adelaide Oval pitch in their one Sheffield Shield encounter this season, said the 30-year-old was an awkward proposition because he attacked the stumps consistently. “It’s disappointing for Jackson, but it’s exciting for Chadd at the same time,” Smith said. “It’s like-for-like, they’re both pretty similar. They both stand the seam up nicely and Chadd’s been rewarded for what he’s done in Shield cricket over the last couple of years.
“He’s very accurate, he knows what he’s doing, he stands the seam up. If there’s anything in the wicket, he’ll certainly get everything out of it. He’s a difficult one, because he’s so short, not many balls go over the stumps, which makes him a pretty handy proposition when the ball is seaming around. It’s a good selection.”
Having previously toured New Zealand in 2016 and then been part of Australian squads for Adelaide Tests in each of the past two years, Sayers has been rewarded for his overall body of bowling work rather than recent results in particular. Having had to claim an enormous amount of wickets at every level for recognition whether claiming 65 wickets at 8.63 in Adelaide club competition in 2010-11 to get a Redbacks debut, or taking 62 at 19 in the Sheffield Shield last summer, the irony of his inclusion this week, after a wicketless match against Victoria, was not lost on Sayers.
“It’s just worked out like that, it wasn’t the best timing to go out and take none-for, but I’m feeling good and feeling like if I get a chance, I’ll do well,” Sayers said. “Probably the performance I put in with no wickets I probably second-guessed myself a bit. I’m still bowling as well as I was at the start of the year, it’s just that I didn’t get the rewards this game.
“I just think I’ve got to do what I’ve been doing at Shield level. I can’t go away from what’s been working for me, so if I get the chance I’ll just do what I’ve been doing.”