Bailey firms as Ashes inclusion
George Bailey appears to have hurdled the dual obstacles of poor recent Sheffield Shield returns and an indifferent record at the Gabba to take a place in Australia's Ashes top six, after a glowing assessment of his qualities by the national selector John Inverarity.
There appears to be little need for Bailey to rush home from the current ODI tour of India either, as Inverarity said the coming rounds would not overly distract the selectors from a Test squad they appear largely settled on.
The composure, poise and leadership demonstrated by Bailey across his limited-overs career to date, most recently on the subcontinent where he has shepherded an understrength touring team to a 2-1 series lead with two matches remaining, is serving him increasingly well to cover the holes in his domestic CV.
Chief among those is a tally of 256 Shield runs at 18.28 in 2012-13, the largest single factor in his omission from the Ashes tour earlier this year. He improved marginally while playing for Hampshire in England, tallying 263 at 37.57 from five appearances.
Of similarly modest dimensions is Bailey's record in first-class cricket at the Gabba, where eight matches have reaped only 279 runs at 21.46 and a highest score of 76. This statistic is mitigated a little by the knowledge that Brisbane's Test strip is habitually the ground's best and most equable surface of the season, in contrast to the grassy Shield decks commonly unveiled for southern visitors.
Nonetheless, Inverarity acknowledged that, should it come to pass, Bailey's selection would be based upon his international runs, character and leadership attributes, rather than the compelling domestic case he has never quite managed to make.
"His performance in ODI cricket has been outstanding," Inverarity said. "Since he started 18 months ago he's been our best-performed one-day player in terms of average, aggregate runs, strike-rate. He's just been outstanding, so it's a thrill to see him coming on and playing so well.
"When we look at a player we look at four things: their batting, their bowling, their fielding, and their character or what else they bring to the team. George certainly brings a great deal in that character category to the team. He's a very mature, calm young man. I think you'll have seen [that] in his batting performances. Difficult situations bring out the best in him."
Bailey and Steve Smith were the two notable absentees from the Australia A squad compiled to face the tourists in Hobart from November 6. Smith is a certainty to play at the Gabba, and each would have been a capable captain, but Inverarity said that in Bailey's case, there was not much more the selectors needed to learn about him.
"The general feeling is we thought George has gone past that," he said. "That's more development, and he's firmly entrenched as an Australian player. All performances are important, but we're not going to select the Ashes team just on the performances of that round of Shield and [the] Australia A game. Our minds are well made up before that.
"We're very well advanced on our planning. Almost all the places we know who is going to be in the Test team. It's probably the last one or two places [that are not yet settled], that's all. As long as we're not plagued by further injuries, we're pretty settled with where we're at. I think we're more settled and at a better place now than we were when we went away for the Ashes in England."
Another man not named in the Australia A team was David Warner, who has allayed any fear among the selectors about his batting form and mindset by coshing a trio of centuries for New South Wales in the domestic limited-overs competition. Inverarity reckoned that the time spent settling at home, rather than venturing once more to India, had aided Warner's focus.
"We were thrilled to bits with three of his last four innings, where he scored very good hundreds," Inverarity said of Warner. "I think David's learned a lot during the past five or six months. His form during the Ryobi was outstanding and we're looking forward to him taking that forward. It's been very good for David to be settled in his home bed for some months. He's had a real chance to settle down and I think it's been in his interests to do so."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here