Ashes opener looms as Bailey’s chance to bloom

WILL George Bailey solve the No.6 riddle?

It's a void not satisfactorily filled since Michael Hussey's retirement last summer.

Last domestic season few batsmen claimed world-class status via weight of runs. The Australian one-day and Twenty20 captain least of all. Bailey averaged just 18.28 in the 2012/13 Sheffield Shield season.

Hence, the Ashes loss in England was punctuated by a revolving door of batting order backmarkers who weren't quite up to scratch.

Since then Usman Khawaja has dominated the Ryobi Cup on docile wickets but has struggled in Sheffield Shield, as has Shaun Marsh, while Phil Hughes was a game late in scoring his maiden double century for South Australia.

That left Tasmanians Bailey and Alex Doolan. Selectors went for the sensible, or "safe" option.

In fact, Bailey's selection actually feels as natural as it comes, funny as that may have sounded 12 months ago.

As the ODI captain he has maintained Australia's No.2 world ranking, including a competitive showing in a high-scoring series against top-ranked India.

Bailey led the way with 478 runs at an average of 95.60 and strike-rate of 116.01, and flew up to be ranked world No.3 ODI batsman in the process.

The series was a flog-a-thon so Bailey's record was astounding considering he mostly played cricket shots on the way to scoring 230 runs more than Australia's next best performer, Glenn Maxwell.

The one batsman ranked above Bailey in that series was another player whose position was previously in question.

India's Rohit Sharma answered the critics with booming success - 491 runs at 122.75 and a strike-rate of 108.62.

Rewarded with a similarly overdue Test debut, he subsequently returned scores of 177 and 111 in the recent series against West Indies. He now sits on an average of 288 until the first Test against South Africa on December 18.

It goes to show one-day form can convert to the Test arena.

Now it's the 31-year-old from Launceston's turn.

Late bloomers can also prove their worth, as Chris Rogers did in England.

And if the last two Test batsmen to come out of Bailey's hometown - Ricky Ponting and David Boon - are any indication, Bailey just might too.



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