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George Bailey might not be the answer to all, or any, of Australia's problems but at the minute he's their brightest light. That is their biggest problem
Jarrod Kimber at Edgbaston
June 8, 2013
There is this recurring theme that George Bailey isn't much of a batsman. That he is lucky to be there. That without his captaincy skills he wouldn't even be picked in this line up.
It is all based on the fact that for the first time since Australia's first Test, a player was picked to captain Australia despite the fact that he'd never played international cricket. Sure, it was only T20, a form that has never been taken seriously in Australia. But this was a massive thing.
Bailey was seen as one of the mad professor's gambles. Australian cricket often fears anything different, and with John Inverarity picking cricketers based on their intelligence and leadership skills, Bailey became an easy target. He'd never had a massive Sheffield Shield season that demanded he be picked. His first-class average was not monumental. He'd not dominated county cricket or the IPL. And he was no young prodigy that could play for the next 10 years. Bailey was often a punch line for a cricket system that was failing on many levels.
Of course Bailey had little to do with Australia's fall from grace. He hadn't played when they lost the No. 1 Test match crown or the last World Cup. Even in the World T20 he took a poor side and got it to the semi-final. They were beaten by the eventual champions West Indies, and while his team crumbled, he played his best innings against them.
Today in the press box, there was talk that he was the worst batsman of any Australian captains since the Packer era. Kim Hughes, Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke are fair batsmen. And had Bailey been anywhere near their talent, you'd expect he would have played far earlier in his career. He didn't, because he just isn't that good. Most aren't.
But with Clarke injured, Bailey is the most likely batsmen in this team to make a score. In his ODI career he averages 45.50 with a strike rate of 83.74. The average is amazing, the strike rate, could be higher. Bailey wasn't picked in the ODI side as a captain, he was picked as a batsman, and as a batsman in the last two years he has been by far Australia's most consistent in all conditions.
Despite their reputations, in the same period Shane Watson and David Warner strike rates are only 80 and 81 respectively. Watson averaging 37.37 and Warner averaging 34.95.
Hughes has averaged 49.55 in that period, but with a strike rate of 75. And despite some of his trademark flashes through the off side, here looked completely out of his depth. He made 30 off 55 balls, and gave two chances, or three, as he might have edged the ball he was should have been stumped off.
Despite the fact that Matthew Wade is Australia's first choice ODI keeper, his Test record is far better, and this was another disappointing outing for him, with his average now barely staying above 20.
Mitchell Marsh at No. 6 just doesn't look right and then Australia only have Adam Voges, who is only a few matches into his comeback. He's looked really good after a comically bad run at the start of Australia's domestic summer.
The shame for Australia, is that in all forms of cricket they have quality fast bowlers. Today they did well to restrict England, who at one stage looked like they would skip merrily to 300 with their eyes closed. In the end, all the bowlers good work only made Australia's losing margin less embarrassing.
This bowling line up doesn't even include Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle or James Pattinson. And yet when compared to the batting line up, it's just far superior. In fact, it would be awkward to even compare the two on talent or form right now. This bowling attack with almost any other batting line up, perhaps Pakistan excluded, would be in a better position, or an actual position, to win this tournament.
With this line up, it's hard to see how Australia will even get into the semi-finals. On form and confidence, James Faulkner could bat as high as No. 5 and not look out of place.
Today, Warner was out in typical fashion. As did Watson. Hughes just couldn't get going. Voges and Wade were undone by movement. Marsh absolutely smashed the hell out of a ball, straight to Morgan at point.
Of the batsmen, it was only Bailey who looked at home, scored with any ease, and handled the moving ball. When he got out, he also looked the most passionate. Right now, he, and potentially Voges, look the best of a very poor bunch.
Bailey might have been picked as an experiment, and he might not be the answer to all, or any, of Australia's problems. But right now he's the best they have to work with. And that is the major problem.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?