Australia’s batsmen in recent times have been the Test team’s achilles heel and its laughing stock all in one.
Despite one of the most heroic calendar years in recent memory from captain Michael Clarke in 2012, which yielded four double centuries and a highest personal score of 329 (not out), Australia’s Test batting has been calamitous and often the cause of defeat.
The team’s chance to regain the urn this summer, with an immediate return series on home soil, may be the Aussies’ best chance at glory over the English in recent years. The series is doubly important as memories of this years’ defeats can be forgotten.
Throughout Australia’s 10 innings in the most recent Ashes series, only four centuries were made (two of them by Clarke), with only a pitiful 13 half centuries sparsely spread throughout the five Tests.
This is simply unacceptable, and the axe needs to swing. Ed Cowan, Usman Khawaja, and even Steve Smith (despite his 138 not out in the final Test) all failed to impress with the bat.
Enter George Bailey.
George Bailey leads from the front – http://t.co/nthNoU7iUx pic.twitter.com/vJDFASlUDA
— Ennaachi.com (@Ennaachi) October 14, 2013
One ton and ten half-centuries in his first 29 one-day international (ODI) innings compliment a sound Sheffield Shield average of 38.29. Rightly so, there is a preference to promote batsmen into the Australian Test side on the back of runs on the board at state level.
With nearly 6000 runs in 96 matches, it is clear that Bailey’s style of batting, and his first class record, are similar to that of the great Michael Hussey.
Bailey, the current one-day international captain, in the absence of an injured Clarke, should be presented with a baggy green on the first morning of the Brisbane Test at the Gabba to stabilise Australia’s fragile (at best) middle order. Promoting him should do a world of good for the Test team.
Bailey’s international run-scoring form at present should put him at the front of coach Darren Lehmann’s mind. In just 33 internationals, Bailey has recorded 1379 runs at an average of 51.24, the fourth-highest of all time.
In the first two matches of the current seven-match series against India, with the world number one ranking on the line, Bailey backed up a run-a-ball 85 with a swashbuckling 92 (not out) from 50 balls. A serviceable 43 from 69 balls followed in Game 3’s victory on Sunday.
That was backed up by an exciting 98 off 94 balls last night in Game 4.
His captaincy of the Twenty20 national side and the ODI team in India adds another string to his bow, and provides a young team with their backs to the wall a shot of experience and cricketing nous.
In recent times runs scored in one-day internationals have been overlooked, as ODIs command the least attention in comparison to the headline grabbing Twenty20s or traditional Test matches. Australia can ill-afford this attitude given recent performances.
A perfect mix of young talent and proven experience is hard to manufacture, particularly when a string of losses increase the necessity for the next win, and Australia must enter the approaching Ashes series with its best performers in the final 11.
With Clarke, veteran Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and Steve Smith the current batting locks to be playing in Brisbane, a void is left for an experienced batsman with good temperament to stride to the crease at number six.
If it really is ‘runs on the board’ that selectors are hoping for, then they need look nor further than Bailey.
He may just be the answers to Australia’s prayers.
Justin Falconer is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at Melbourne’s La Trobe University and is a weekly contributor to upstart. You can follow him on Twitter at @jfalconer6.