Bailey suspended for slow over-rate
Australia's stand-in captain George Bailey has been suspended for Friday's ODI against England in Hobart as a result of Australia's poor over-rate in their win against India at the MCG on Sunday. Steven Smith is likely to make his ODI captaincy debut in Hobart, while the selectors will also be forced to show their hand on their preferred World Cup backup batsman with a replacement needed for Bailey.
Australia finished their 50 overs in the field at 6.16pm on Sunday, which was 26 minutes later than the scheduled innings finish time of 5.50pm. Bailey had been fined for another over-rate offence in an ODI against South Africa in November when he was also captain, and as such a suspension was inevitable when the match referee Andy Pycroft ruled Australia were short against India.
Bailey has been banned for one ODI and fined 20% of his match fee, while his players have been fined 10% of their match fees. Pycroft ruled that Australia was only one over short of its target "when time allowances were taken into consideration". Bailey pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the sanction, so no formal hearing was held.
Perversely, Bailey's suspension might be advantageous for Australia ahead of the World Cup, because the slate is effectively wiped clean on past offences and he does not have a future suspension hanging over his head any longer. Australia's coach Darren Lehmann said he told the players in no uncertain terms after Sunday's win that they had to improve their over-rates.
"You've got three and half hours and it took us three hours 56 I think last night," Lehmann said in Melbourne on Monday. "We bowled too many wides and we were too slow in between overs, and we've got to get better at that.
"I spoke to them quite firmly last night. We don't want that happening. We want to get through our overs and play an up-tempo game and make sure we're entertaining the people who come to watch, in the right time-frame."
Part of the problem for Australia was that spinner Xavier Doherty was dropped and Glenn Maxwell bowled only two overs, meaning 48 were bowled by fast bowlers. Although Bailey as captain is the only player to be suspended because of the issue, batsman David Warner said on Monday morning that all the players were to blame.
"If he ... gets banned for a game, the coach will be very, very unimpressed," Warner said. "Some of us dawdled between overs here and there ... We've got to be better than that. No way in the world should a guy who's captaining his country be suspended for a game. It's our fault."
The selectors are yet to officially declare who will captain Australia against England. However, Smith is the logical candidate after rising to the Test vice-captaincy during the series against India and leading Australia to a series win in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke. A replacement batsman for Bailey will also be needed for Friday's game.
Australia do not currently have a backup batsman in the squad, with allrounder Mitchell Marsh set to play club cricket for Western Suburbs in Sydney this weekend as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury. His brother Shaun could be a contender for a call-up, although Cameron White will also be in the mix after a strong Matador Cup campaign.
Whoever gets the call is almost certain to be the player on standby for the World Cup squad should Clarke be ruled out due to injury. Clarke had surgery on his injured hamstring after the first Test against India in December and has been named in the World Cup squad, but he has been given a deadline of Australia's second match against Bangladesh on February 21 to be fit to play.
"Michael is progressing well in his rehab and is currently running on a regular basis and has commenced batting," team physio Alex Kountouris said on Monday. "He was reviewed by the surgeon in Melbourne on Sunday who was very pleased with his progress. He remains on track for a return to play by 21 February, the date we spoke of when the squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup was announced."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale