Bailey defends Lyon exclusion

Nathan Lyon dismissed Sikandar Raza for 33 AFP

George Bailey, Australia's stand-in captain, defended his team's decision to leave Nathan Lyon out of their playing XI against South Africa, insisting that the offspinner's absence "did not turn the match".

Without Lyon, the part-time spin of Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell leaked 40 runs in five overs and the seam attack fared little better as centuries from AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis helped South Africa to a seven-wicket win.

"I certainly think 327 could have been enough, but knowing that it's a pretty good wicket and only having four out and two new balls, it's always going to be a challenge," Bailey said. "You've got to keep trying to find a way to take wickets, and unfortunately we couldn't do that. I could have probably bowled our part timers a little more, or got them into the game a little earlier, but you can only have XI unfortunately."

The Harare Sports Club pitch played slow and low in the Test featuring South Africa and Zimbabwe earlier this month, and though it has quickened up a touch since then, it remains a track where the toss as well as the quick bowlers' variations once the shine comes off, remain important.

Australia were not helped by losing the toss and being sent in this morning, but Bailey admitted that their attempts to use bowling variations to temper du Plessis and de Villiers had fallen short.

"We tried taking the pace off the ball a little bit and it didn't seem to have too much effect at different times," he said. "There's no doubt that variation is going to be a key, and that's down to mixing up your pace and lengths, and how you bowl at different stages. But we've got to give a little bit of credit to Faf and AB, I thought they batted beautifully."

One thing Bailey and Australia will be pleased about is the performance of their top order in the series so far. Three batsmen passed fifty against Zimbabwe, while Phil Hughes complemented Aaron Finch in an opening stand of 92 before Finch went on to a century today.

"Hughesy batted really well, and particularly once we were sent in I thought that was a really important start for us. It was a little bit challenging at the start and I thought those guys got us off and running.

"They've been pretty consistent. Hughesy has had limited opportunities but keeps putting his hand up. Finchy seems to be getting better and better, and it was great to see him go on and turn that into a hundred today. That's something that we've spoken about, and he'd be pretty satisfied with that. I think that's the challenge for all of our top order players: to get hundreds. As you saw in the chase, it makes it so much easier when you get someone you can bat around for the majority of the innings."