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November 3, 2013
George Bailey is intent on proving his worth as a long-form batsman before the Australian squad for the first Ashes Test is named, flying directly to Brisbane in order to take part in Tasmania's Sheffield Shield fixture against Queensland from November 6.
Members of the ODI squad in India were allowed to make their own decision on whether they would be available for the second Shield round, only two days after their return home from the subcontinent. Bailey, however, has chosen to take part in the match against the Bulls and their strong pace attack as the best way of demonstrating his credentials.
Bailey is strongly favoured to be chosen as the sixth batsman in Australia's team for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, irrespective of how seriously Shane Watson's hamstring turns out to have been damaged by his bowling and batting in a lost cause at Bangalore. Bailey had the option of returning to Hobart for a few days' rest and to not play again until after the Ashes squad had been named on November 12.
But he is aware of not having played first-class matches since a brief county stint with Hampshire early in the English summer, and also that any questions marks around his inclusion are based on a poor domestic record last summer. Runs in Brisbane would silence those doubts.
"I don't think there will be any major challenges with guys getting back into first-class cricket," Bailey said after the Bangalore defeat. "We've all played a lot of cricket in Australia, we know the conditions, we're familiar with what is on offer. But you've just got to try and adjust really quickly.
"Obviously the format is different and the red ball offers different challenges. It's not going to be a surprise to us, but it's just about taking back the same sort of mindset. Certainly what I've been training for in the nets and working with Diva [Michael DiVenuto, batting coach] is not to be too different from one-day to four-day cricket, so hopefully that transpires."
Over the weekend, Bailey was the subject of numerous glowing features in the Australian press, declaring his status as Australia's man of the hour and a welcome level head to add to a batting line-up that changed constantly during the earlier Ashes bout in England. However the former captain Ian Chappell, who alongside Shane Warne has been a longtime critic, offered a contrary view in his Sunday column, asking the national selectors to see beyond the hype around Bailey and look elsewhere.
"A selector has to look past the number of runs and see the batsmanship," Chappell wrote in Sydney's Sunday Telegraph. "Bailey, despite his mountain of runs in one-day cricket, is a batsman who's restricted through the cover region, can be stifled by good spinners and is troubled by well-directed short-pitched bowling. His moderate first-class record and those limitations are not a good template for a Test batsman.
"Facing a quality England attack on bouncy Australian pitches is a far cry from what Bailey has been relishing in India. Batting on pitches that bowlers find as helpful as a Parisian asked for directions in English and against an Indian attack more benevolent than the Bill Gates Foundation, has little bearing on what's looming at the Gabba and beyond.
"There's also a chasm of difference between batting against a pedestrian attack hoping to contain and top-class bowling predators seeking wickets with field placings to reflect those widely varying approaches. The Australian selectors have to ignore the clamouring from a Board and a public that are desperate for victory over England and choose a combination that gives the side their best chance of winning."
With another Tasmanian Test aspirant Alex Doolan seconded to play for Australia A against the Englishmen in Hobart, Bailey may find himself batting higher than his customary middle-order post for the Tigers.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena