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January 9, 2014
Mitchell Johnson will be the first of Australia's Test players to be rested in the upcoming one-day series against England, but George Bailey will be one Ashes winner keen to take every opportunity to play. Bailey is the only member of Australia's unchanged XI throughout the Ashes whose Test position could be considered in danger ahead of next month's tour of South Africa, and there is no Sheffield Shield cricket for him to regain form before the trip.
In the lead-up to the Ashes in Australia, the selectors made it clear that one-day form on October's tour of India would be considered in picking the Test squad and Bailey's remarkable ODI efforts in India earned him the No. 6 place for the Gabba Test. Bailey made batting contributions through the series, including 53 in Adelaide and 46 in Sydney, but his average of 26.14 reflected his status as the weakest link in the top seven.
Alex Doolan joined the Test squad in Sydney but was overlooked as the selectors opted for another unchanged side, but what they do with the No. 6 position in South Africa looms as the major selection decision. Bailey is Australia's vice-captain for the five ODIs against England, which begin in Melbourne on Sunday, and the matches will provide him with one last opportunity to find some runs before the Test squad is named.
"Every time you represent your country you're trying to play in all formats," Lehmann said on Thursday when asked about Bailey. "Every game, as we've talked about pre-summer and with the Indian one-day series, it's important for guys to make runs and take wickets."
One man whose Test place is under no scrutiny is Johnson, the Player of the Series in the 5-0 Ashes clean sweep. Although Johnson is part of the one-day squad the selectors have decided to rest him for the first match in Melbourne, with the intention that he will play the second ODI at the Gabba. Lehmann said several of the Test players would need a break at some point, but he wanted to avoid a situation like last summer when several high-profile men were all rested at the same time.
"It's obviously been a big summer for him so we're just giving him a short little break, making sure he's getting fresh for the other one-dayers as well [as the Tests]," Lehmann said of Johnson. "It's important we put the best side we possibly can out understanding it's been a hectic five Test matches and some of the Test boys especially are a bit weary.
"We'll sum it up as we go. We certainly don't want to go down the path previously where we've rested clumps of players. We want to pick and choose where we can do it. We want them to play in their home state and we want to make sure we're putting a good squad together looking ahead to the World Cup. This one-day format is very important for us."
The World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is just over a year away and the opportunities to settle on a preferred line-up will be slim, with no ODIs on the tour of South Africa and then Australia spending most of their winter at home. As well as working out a first-choice attack, the top of the order also poses a number of possibilities with Shane Watson, David Warner, Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh all potential openers in this squad.
The series will also provide the first opportunity for James Pattinson to play international cricket since he suffered a back injury during the Ashes tour of England in July. Like Bailey, Pattinson will be hoping to press his case for selection on the Test tour of South Africa through the five one-day internationals over the coming weeks.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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