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Bailey looking to bookend a bumper season
GEORGE Bailey started the 2013 English season in form for Hampshire at The Ageas Bowl.
And he will end it at the same venue today, stepping out as Australia’s in-form one-day batsman for the series-deciding fifth ODI.
Bailey has scored 82 and 87 in the last two completed ODIs, the latter score unable to stop a Michael Carberry-inspired England levelling the series at 1-1 in Cardiff at the weekend with two abandonments.
Bailey’s achievements for Australia in ODIs have consistently flown under the radar.
Since making his ODI debut in March 2012, he has racked up 1,057 runs from just 26 innings at an average of 48.04.
His stats from 2013 are even more impressive. He scored his only ODI century – 125 not out – against the West Indies in January prior to two half-centuries against England and New Zealand while captaining Australia in the Champions Trophy.
Not long into Bailey’s international career, comparisons were being made between him and Michael Hussey.
It’s high praise for Bailey and perhaps a tad premature, especially given his first-class average currently sits at 38 compared with the phenomenal 15,313 runs at an average of 53 that was alongside Hussey's name before his Test debut.
However, there are certainly a few parallels between the two batsmen.
Like Bailey, Hussey served a long apprenticeship in domestic cricket before eventually being handed his international debut in his late 20s, and took very little time to settle into the Australian set-up.
While his Test career is what Hussey will be most remembered for, the man known as Mr Cricket made an equally important contribution in the one day arena.
Picking up where Michael Bevan left off, Hussey was Australia's Mr Reliable in the middle and lower order, possessing the ability to salvage an innings when the Aussies were struggling, or push the team on when attack was the order of the day.
Bailey – who struck 93 in his first Hampshire innings on debut against Leicestershire at The Ageas Bowl in April – appears to be fulfilling a similar role with relish.
The question is, will Bailey – 31 last week – have the opportunity to mirror Hussey’s feats in Test cricket?
His impressive performances at international level this year have been in stark contrast to the sub-par showings put forward by ‘generation next’ players such as Usman Khawaja, Phillip Hughes and David Warner.
There is a strong argument that Bailey shouldn’t even get a look-in at the Test selection table given his woeful stats from the last Sheffield Shield season, when he was 45th in the run-scorers tally with a miserable average of 18.
But stats are one thing, temperament another.
The selectors have already shown a willingness to pick players who they believe have what it takes to play Test cricket, even if their stats don’t necessarily warrant it.
James Faulkner's debut in the fifth Ashes Test was a case in point.
With almost a decade of first-class cricket under his belt and a steadily-growing international pedigree to boot, Bailey is in a strikingly similar place to where Hussey was before his Test debut.
Whether he ends up getting a baggy green will end up determining whether Bailey finishes his career as Mr Cricket II, or Mr Cricket Lite.
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