The Investec Ashes 2013 June 17, 2013

Australia low on confidence - Bailey

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George Bailey, Australia's stand-in captain for the Champions Trophy, has admitted that Australia are low on confidence, reasoning that the fate of the Ashes hinges on the result of the first couple of Tests. Australia, the defending champions, failed to make the semi-finals of what is supposed to be the last edition of the Champions Trophy, after they lost to Sri Lanka on Monday at The Oval narrowly by 20 runs, finishing at the bottom of Group B behind England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

It has been a demoralising few weeks for Australia, starting with the loss of their regular captain Michael Clarke to back injury, following by the David Warner controversy after the player admitted to being involved physical altercation with England batsman Joe Root in a pub in Birmingham last week before culminating in their exit from the tournament on Monday. With the first Investec Ashes Test commencing on July 10 at Trent Bridge, Australia could not be in a worse state of mind.

However, Bailey felt that the switch in the formats, the change of the ball, the infusion of fresh legs and the probable return of Clarke in to the squad could reinvigorate an Australia and arrest the downward spiral.

"There is probably not a great deal of confidence there," Bailey said at the Oval. "But it's just a very different mindset, I think, going from a one‑day tournament to a Test tournament. I don't think it's mattered where sides have been ranked going forward or in the past.

"The Ashes just tends to bring out something special in both sides. Whatever can be written and said leading up into those games, but until that first Test and the result of that first Test, I think that will dictate how the summer plays out. I think there is a huge importance in the results of the first couple of Tests."

Whatever Bailey's thoughts, the worries will persist. The biggest concern would be the slump the top-order pair of Shane Watson and Phillip Hughes. Watson had an aggregate of 34 runs while Hughes finished with 43 runs in the three Champions Trophy matches. Add to that the failure of Warner, who managed nine runs in the match against England and successive ducks in two warm-up matches, and the fragility of the Australian batting order becomes that much prominent.

There were only four half-centuries by Australia's batsmen including one from the James Faulkner, a bowling allrounder. Bailey and Adam Voges, the best performing batsmen, are not part of the Ashes plans. Australia, Bailey pointed out, would need to forget the Champions Trophy as soon as possible to move into the Ashes with a positive frame of mind.

"All of these guys will have to put this tournament behind them whether they've scored runs or not, and just focus on going forward," Bailey said. "That's no different for an Australian player to any other international player. Everyone has form slumps, everyone has their ups and downs. As a team, I think there is a really big challenge that's going to be ahead of them in the next couple of months. I think what Australia have done this time is they've got a really good preparation.

"I think a couple of the guys, the batters from this group, will maybe even join up and play the Australia A game that's due to start later this week. So, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for those guys to get some match practice in. Plenty of opportunity to get lots of practice against the Dukes balls in."

What would help the Australians immensely would be the return of Clarke who, Bailey reckoned, was likely to return for the first Ashes warm-up match, starting next Thursday, against Somerset in Taunton. According to Bailey even though it might seem Australia had been mortally wounded in the Champions Trophy there were still some positives to take forward. One reason for encouragement was Faulkner, the left-arm fast bowler, who might have just had three wickets, but his rich mix of variations could make him the surprise weapon during the Ashes.

"Faulkner has been really impressive. I think it's been good to have a lot of guys over here playing a lot of cricket in the lead‑up to the Ashes. So it's not necessarily just on the Champions Trophy group, but a lot of guys that have been playing county cricket," Bailey said. "Obviously, the Australia A groups are over here. The Champions Trophy boys that have been here for a number of weeks have been getting used to the conditions, different color ball and different format. But all of that plays a part in getting settled in. So I think all of those things will take some positives out of."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • _Australian_ on June 21, 2013, 2:07 GMT

    @scottstevo. I would not call a 5-1-5 team set up ludicrous. We had a four man attack v SA and the problems we had for the Perth test with key bowlers sitting out a crucial game was ludicrous. With some tests close together we need to manage our bowlers better to remain competitive to take 20 wickets in all tests. Our batting issues are not going to be fixed by simply adding another batsman. Our bowlers are batting well enough to negate the need of an allrounder and if 5 batsman and a keeper who can bat can't score the runs needed you don't deserve to win. @landl47 I am aware that those players are not going to play. I simply feel we would do best with that side but it won't be and the result of the next 2 ashes will be easy victories for England.

  • Shaggy076 on June 20, 2013, 0:41 GMT

    This upcoming Ashes series has been set up on a plate by the English media and past players. Vaughan, Flintoff, Botham to name a few have declared it a walk in the park 5-0 victort. All pressure is now on England to deliver on those predictions. I know Australia have done it in the past but that Australian side, unlike this English side was able to flog NZ in NZ, beat the Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and South Africans which this English side has done. In the hype over the state of AUstralian cricket, the state of the English team and recent results have been neglected. No pressure on the Aussies at all here, we just need to come out with no pressure and compete.

  • Shaggy076 on June 20, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    Im sick of hearing about Katich, he didnt play domestic cricket in Australia at all last year. If you dont play domestic cricket you cant get picked. He is retired end of story.

  • ScottStevo on June 19, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    @landl47, Yes, I'm fully aware that the likelihood of changes is exceptionally minimal. However, this is nowhere near the best side and the selectors have got it completely wrong, in my opinion. And, there is talent in Australia...stats only tell part of a story, mate. Hick/Ramprakash ring bells? There are plenty of capable guys around, especially in ODIs, but I think there are a few we've tried in ODIs who have performed well and look the part for test cricket too. As I said, we aren't the same dominating side, and we don't have the same well of talent we had 10 years ago when we could've chosen from 10 guys averaging over 50 each season and dominating county cricket. But, if we select guys with the right technical skill sets and right mentality, they will do a good enough job for us to compete. I can think of a few top bats that with a little perseverance would be more than capable test players. We mightn't set the world on fire (nobody else will either) but we will compete with all

  • Macker60 on June 19, 2013, 8:11 GMT

    Has anyone noticed that Australia only had 4 player in the CTrophy, Waston Hughes Warner and Starc, The Rest are either Playing Quality Cricket in the County Comp, Rogers B/A of 76. and Cowan B/A of 50 Both of these have scored runs against the Current English Bowlers. Australia best Batsman in Clarke out Injured Returning next week. While the Rest of the Ashes team including 4 of there best Bowlers are Playing in the A team with the Red Ball. The Question I ask was how serous was Australia in the CTrophy, I do know that they have been practicing in Brisbane with the Dukes for the Past Several Months.

  • YorkshirePudding on June 19, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    @Landl, thanks for the clarification, I agree about Fawad, it does seem strange that hes fast tracked when you have someone like Steve O'Keefe in the wings who has a pretty good record in Shield cricket.

    Which brings me to one of the points that ScottStevo is making, its almost like they are looking for a Warne MKII, just as england kept searching for a Botham MKII in the 90's. PS England fan for 30 years, thick and thin, and through many false dawns.

    @ScottStevo, in tests theres no limit on the changes that can be made to a squad, its not like a Tournament where the squad cannot be changed once selected without permission of the ICC, the only proviso would be getting the new members into the country.

  • dummy4fb on June 19, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    @landl47on (June 19, 2013, 3:42 GMT)--Agree with most of your thoughts but I think other than Hussey there is one more player who could have made a difference--Simon Katich.May be he was dropped a couple of seasons ago but since CA does not seem to have any issues regarding backtracking earlier decisions i think he should have been in the squad.The Indian visit in 2011/12 has done much damage to Aus cricket.It established Warner as the opener and gave Punter another season unnecessarily when Khwaja should have been tried.Needless to say Warner boy doesn't need to be anywhere near Aus squad.

  • Occidental_Observer on June 19, 2013, 5:24 GMT

    Well, well, well........one side accused of ball-tampering and the other that can't seem to do anything on this tour without creating controversy.

    A fine Ashes this is shaping up to be!

  • landl47 on June 19, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding: Aus picked 16 players but said they might add another later (which everyone took to mean Fawad Ahmed, if available). He was duly fast-tracked into the Australian A side and in his opening match took 0/40 and 1/25 against Ireland, not figures to keep England's batsmen awake at night. We'll see whether he is in fact added to the squad, presumably in the next week or so.

    @ScottStevo: as someone who has supported England through thick and thin (and a lot of it has been thin) for over 50 years, I understand how you feel. However, realistically, the squad won't be changed unless injuries make it necessary. They didn't even take the opportunity to get rid of Warner when they had the chance! Frankly, the only player out there who might have made a difference is Mike Hussey and it wasn't by CA's choice that he isn't in the squad. The rest are ordinary players with career averages to prove it, or mid-30s players well past their best. This squad is the best Aus has got.

  • RodStark on June 19, 2013, 2:02 GMT

    Currently Australia are reminding me a lot of England back in the bad old days when the fans (and the selectors) spent enormous amounts of time throwing out all sorts of names who might do better than what they currently have, so out of pure mischief, I put forward the following team of Australians who are (I think) currently playing first-class cricket and in my opinion could probably beat any XI selected from the current Ashes squad. I used to do this with England teams in the late 90s/early 2000s.

    Katich, Bailey, Ponting, Voges, David Hussey, Smith, Paine, Johnson, O'Keefe, McKay, Cummins

    (I realize I'm a bit stuck for fast bowlers since they already have 6 or 7 in the actual squad.)