Bailey hails Warner as 'a natural leader'

The reverse sweep was an important part of George Bailey's innings AFP

George Bailey delivered a glowing appraisal of David Warner's leadership following Australia's two-wicket win in Dambulla, in which Bailey had led the chase. It was Warner's first international in charge, and though his batting continued to ail him, his attack proved penetrative in the defining first half of the match.

Australia's seamers took two early wickets, and though Dinesh Chandimal and Tillakaratne Dilshan put up a 73-run second wicket stand, the middle and lower order could not muster substantial partnerships. Sri Lanka were all out for 226 in the 50th over.

Bailey has plenty of experience as a leader, having captained Australia in 57 limited-overs matches. He said Warner was a good leader because, among other things, he typified the kind of cricket Australia wish to play.

"I think Davey's a natural leader," Bailey said. "He's always been a leader in terms of the way he plays the game. A lot of the things we talk about as a team - that Darren Lehmann has always talked about - driving the game, playing the game aggressively, and taking the game on, you're talking about Davey Warner when you do that.

"The conversations that I was privy to when he was talking to the bowlers, he was really clear and direct. He keeps things simple and they're all pretty good things to have as a skipper. We were taking wickets, so that always keeps you happy as a captain. We took most of our catches, so it's a nice welcome for him. I think he's a really natural leader, I think it suits him."

Bailey was among those seen in regular conversation with Warner through Sri Lanka's innings, along with Matthew Wade and Aaron Finch. Warner's ideas, he said, were instrumental in keeping Sri Lanka to a score which Australia felt was very gettable on the Dambulla surface.

"As much as anything, in my opinion, the on-field discussions are just so Davey can verbalise what's going on his head," Bailey said. "I know that the times I've captained, I'd much rather have too many ideas coming at me than when no one is coming up at all, because that's normally the sign things aren't going your way. I don't think we'll come out with anything too radical. It was more just letting Davey talk through what his plans were, and they were pretty much always on the money."

Australia's chase had been floundering at 44 for 3 before Bailey took control of the innings. He put on 72 runs with Travis Head and a further 81 with Matthew Wade, on his way to 70 from 99 balls. In that knock, Bailey used the sweep and reverse sweep as liberally as any Australia batsman has done throughout the tour.

"I've been practicing my sweep and reverse sweep," he said. "You just need options here, don't you? There are some clever bowlers in that team and you need to be able to mix things up and change the field a little bit when you need to.

"I love the challenge of batting here. It's very different to playing in England. It's very different to playing at home. I find it a great thrill to be able to test yourself and to come up with new shots and to come up with different ways to combat the different things that are thrown at you."

Bailey has had a better year with the bat in 2016, than he has had in either of the two previous calendar years. He has hit 520 runs at an average of 37.14 since January, and has contributed in each of his innings this series.

"I don't know what to put it down to - maybe I'm just hitting my peak at the right age," Bailey said of his improved output this year. "I just try to relax a bit more and enjoy it. I probably have a better balance off the field. I know what it feels like to be out of the team, or on the outer of the team. I know the worst-case scenario if I don't score runs is I'm back to that feeling, so I'm just trying to make sure I enjoy every second I can."