The early Bird

IN Winning Ugly, former American tennis professional Brad Gilbert offers an instructional guide for players without noticeable major weapons - a huge serve, or a blistering forehand, for instance - to upset more fancied opponents.

If Jackson Bird were to pen a book on his burgeoning cricket career, it might be called Bowling Boring. Like the title of Gilbert's page-turner, that is not meant to be derogatory.

In fact, Bird, 26, is unashamedly setting out to do just that in his first Test for Australia against Sri Lanka at the MCG.

''I think Glenn McGrath was an unbelievable bowler - he got wickets everywhere,'' Bird said. ''I suppose he was a pretty boring bowler, but I think that's why he was so good. He kept his game simple and I suppose he just got it done.

''That's sort of the one thing I really looked up to. How he'd get wickets everywhere on every type of surface.''

McGrath could argue there is not a great deal boring about taking 563 Test wickets. But he would appreciate what Bird means. The legendary seamer decided to sacrifice some speed for accuracy, and the results were spectacular.

Bird also employs a straightforward method of attack, letting others go hammer and tong at batsmen while he picks them apart intelligently at the opposite end.

The newcomer will open the bowling in the Boxing Day Test and he will do so about the same speed - in the mid-130-km/h range - that McGrath did for many years.

Those who have watched him closely in the Sheffield Shield have noticed that he maintains his pace after settling into his rhythm.

''It's nothing different to what I've done in first-class cricket,'' Bird said of opening the bowling. ''I think I've opened in probably 15 out of 17 games. I'm definitely not going to try and do anything different. I suppose there is going to be a few more people there on Boxing Day, but it's something that I'm going to have to deal with.''

Tasmania's state talent manager, Michael Farrell, who first saw Bird when the paceman was bowling for NSW under-19s in Perth in 2004, said Bird had maintained many of the characteristics he had as a teenager.

''He looked a resilient fella. He had the ability to bowl long spells and he still has, and that's one of his strengths,'' Farrell said.

''He continually seemed to have the seam in the right spot, and that's something he still does. He's got a good ability to sum up a batsman's technique and he's also got a great ability to sum up the conditions he's bowling in. He can swing the ball in favourable conditions but his strength is just hitting that back of a length and consistently hitting the seam.''

Australian coach Mickey Arthur admitted last week that he had barely seen him bowl. But he was certainly aware of the impression Bird has made on opposition batsmen over the past 15 months - he is approaching 100 first-class wickets in less than 20 matches - and Arthur has been doubly convinced by what he has seen in the nets in Melbourne.

''At the start of the summer we had a list of bowlers that we wanted to keep fresh and keep ready to go, and Jackson was one of them,'' he said.

''The simple reason that he brings everything that we want. He brings pace, he brings swing, consistency, he's done it all.

''We've got no issues about throwing the new ball to him.''

This story The early Bird first appeared on WA Today.