George Bailey's Masterclass Against India in Nagpur Guarantees Ashes Selection

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George Bailey's Masterclass Against India in Nagpur Guarantees Ashes Selection
(Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)
George Bailey struck a brutal 156 in the sixth ODI versus India on Wednesday.

If the door to Australia's Ashes squad had only been fractionally ajar for George Bailey, it has now almost certainly been blown off its hinges. 

No longer content with slowly prising that door open, Bailey smashed his foot through it with a 156-run masterclass against India in Nagpur on Wednesday.

Of course, it would be easy to point out that this match was just another run feast, another remarkable display of batting from both sides, but hardly an exhibition capable of defining a batsman's standing in the game. 

Yet that stance would be ignoring not only the magnificence of Bailey's innings but also his immensely rapid transformation into a world-class ODI batsman.

Arriving at the crease at a pivotal time with his side sitting at 45-2 in the 12th over, Bailey put together the sort of performance that forces selectors to sit up and take notice.

Six glittering sixes and 13 fours will certainly fill the highlight reels, but it's the composure and poise that was shown from the 31-year-old that will remain in the selectors' minds.

The stand-in skipper took his time at the beginning of his innings, steadily progressing to 18 from his first 32 balls faced. Rather than scrambling through his opening exchanges, the captain carried a cool sense of clarity and purpose.

Given what followed, it's obvious that Bailey possessed a clinical plan for what lay ahead.

/Getty Images
George Bailey has blossomed as an international batsman in 2013.

Mohammed Sami and Amit Mishra felt the full force of Bailey's onslaught; Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin were not far behind.

The right-hander's barrage over long-on and mid-wicket will still be ringing in the ears of India's slingers, but it was Bailey's ability to find gaps and push the fielders that made his display vastly more impressive.

The innings is also the latest in a long line of substantial contributions in the ODI arena, with his last five innings (all in this series) yielding 474 runs at an average of 118.50—incidentally the exact same figure as his colossal strike rate.

With one game still remaining, Bailey has already broken the record for runs scored by an Australian in a bilateral series. Yet, perhaps more importantly, Bailey has become the second-fastest man in history to 1,500 ODI runs, while he's also passed Misbah-ul-Haq as the world's leading scorer in 2013.

 

A quick glance at the late-bloomer's ODI record makes for compelling reading: 1,535 runs from just 32 innings at an average 56.85, with a strike rate of 92.74.

Consequently, Bailey is almost certain to feature in Australia's team for the upcoming Ashes battle with England. 

While Michael Clarke's side stumbled across a likely top five during the concluded English summer, the search for a genuine sixth batsman had proved unsuccessful until now. Bailey's emergence as the leading candidate will undoubtedly solve that riddle. 

Immediately, there will be those who will point to Bailey's mediocre first-class record and rather disappointing 2012-13 Sheffield Shield campaign as reasons for his exclusion.

But that wouldn't be looking at his potential selection holistically. 

With Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith locking down the first five slots, it's likely we'll see Bailey inserted into the difficult No. 6 position.

As an older head (despite his relatively short international career), it will be hoped that the late-to-emerge star can bring a sense of calm to Australia's middle-order throughout the Ashes series.

More specifically, Australia's selectors will be looking for Bailey to be the middle-order pivot his team so desperately needs.

Recent Australian teams have lacked a dynamic performer at No. 6, a position that calls for a rather unique cricketer. With a platform well set, the man coming in at four down must be able to accelerate the innings to hammer home the advantage—something Bailey has clearly shown he's capable of.

Yet when things go awry, the No. 6 needs to own the strength of mind to repel the opposition during times of imminent threat.

With the likes of Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja thrown on the Ashes scrapheap, it's now Bailey's turn to tackle that task, his turn to wrestle the initiative away from England.

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Going by his recent form in Australian colours, that's well within his grasp. Pleasingly, his simple, no-nonsense approach is also rather refreshing in a cricket world of extravagance and flair. 

That manner in which Bailey carries himself will also aid his superior Clarke, who is certainly in need of another positive and established leader.

The Tasmanian's success in leading Australia during their current ODI campaign is proof that great respect is held for Bailey within the Australian camp, that his standing in the group is truly acknowledged.

It's this blend of stunning form and sound character that has Bailey as the leading candidate for selection as Australia's sixth batsman for the first Test in Brisbane.

If his form in India is anything to go by, it wouldn't surprise if Bailey quickly became the elusive missing link in the Australian lineup.

It also wouldn't surprise anyone if he took the Ashes by storm.

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