George Bailey missed a chance to put his claims for an Ashes debut beyond doubt, but the Australian and Tasmanian one-day star says he’ll never be more ready to make his mark in Test cricket.
With the vacant No.6 batting position the biggest conundrum heading into the first Test in Brisbane, selectors would have been hoping for a lights-out performance from one of the contenders before announcing the team on Tuesday.
Bailey is the frontrunner after a brilliant performance leading the ODI team in India but, two days after getting off the plane, he was unable to convert starts in both innings for Tasmania in their Sheffield Shield clash with Queensland.
In Hobart, the elements conspired against the Australia A batsmen, with candidates Alex Doolan (31 from 35) and Shaun Marsh (27 not out) impressive but far from compelling in their brief opportunity between the rain drops.
Shane Watson’s hamstring injury has muddied the waters a little further, however Australian coach Darren Lehmann says he’s confident the No.3 batsman will face England at the Gabba.
If Watson is fit, that would leave just one opening, and Bailey says he’s ready.
“I’d love the opportunity to see how I go. I feel like, in terms of my game, I know it as well as I ever have,” Bailey said after making 34 and 41 in Tasmania’s draw with Queensland.
“I feel like I’m probably batting as well as I ever have.
“But I’m in a pretty good place so, if it doesn’t happen, I’m pretty comfortable as well.
“My goal over the last 18 months has been to play Test cricket. It’d be a huge honour so, if it happened, I’d be thrilled.”
Bailey was given a working over by Test spearhead Ryan Harris in the first innings, which he initially survived until nicking behind when play resumed the following morning.
It was a tough ask for the 31-year-old to overcome jet lag and perform in his first Shield match of the season, and commendable for him to put himself out there to play when he was already the favourite for No.6.
Bailey said facing Harris was a confidence boost ahead of a potential baptism of fire against England.
“I don’t think there’s much harder in terms of facing fast bowlers in the world than him at his best, so that was a good challenge,” he said.
“It was certainly good to get some red-ball cricket in.”
Australia are likely to name a 13-man squad, featuring allrounder James Faulkner and a back-up fast bowler, to provide cover for Watson.
There’s the possibility a shadow batsman like Doolan could also be put on standby.
It was a good round of Shield cricket otherwise for Australia’s top order, with David Warner, Chris Rogers and Steve Smith all making hundreds.
Watson won’t be risked in NSW’s Shield clash with Queensland next week and, even if he does play in the first Test, it’s still doubtful whether he will be able to bowl.
Lehmann didn’t specify if he expected Watson to be able to operate as an all-rounder, but he’s confident he’ll have him on deck in some capacity.
“The reports from our medical team on Shane’s recovery from injury are pleasing,” he said.
“We want him to continue his treatment and, if all goes to plan, join the Australian team in camp ahead of the first Test.”