Cricket, like watches and clocks, is all about timing. When George Bailey came to the crease batting at No 7 in a rain-affected match in a series that Australia had already been smashed in, while most Aussies were tucked under their doonas, it was a largely pointless innings.
For Bailey, the uncontracted Australian T20 captain who has batted in five different positions in nine ODIs, it was the worst possible time to play what was perhaps his best innings yet for Australia. Australia had slipped to 5/77 off 19.1 overs. Their run rate was comically slow early on, compounded by a glut of middle over wickets, they were playing Duckworth Lewis cricket the exact opposite of how you should.
Australia ended up with a total of 145. After Bailey came in, Australia added 68 runs, Bailey added 46* of them. He did this while batting the last 10 overs with the tail. Waiting until the very end to hit out, he took 19 runs off 9 balls in the last two overs, including a monster six from James Anderson.
Unlike his previous innings in this series, Bailey looked in control of his game, and perhaps without Graeme Swann to hold him down, he found it far easier to score than almost all the Australian batsmen. The way he played with the tail was very clever, and when he decided he needed to hit boundaries, he hit or cleared them. It was exactly what you’d expect from a good quality ODI finisher in hard circumstances.
That the total was only 145 couldn’t be blamed on Bailey. And Australia did move the ball around a bit, but like at all times this tour, moving it around was not enough to get through England’s top order, and they got home quite easily.
On the social networks Bailey has copped a lot of flak for the way he has batted in this series. Far more flak than someone who averages 40 from nine ODIs probably should receive. In Bailey’s short career so far he’s been unlucky, not much on the field, but off it.
When he was the surprise selection as T20 captain, it was during a time when he wasn’t making runs, and became an easy target. After that he played two very important ODI innings in the Caribbean, but time zones and low scoring pitches didn’t truly drum home the importance of them.
The one innings that Bailey did play while Australians were awake and watching the TV was his scratchy 50 at the Oval. It was an innings where he fought back well, although he needed to after batting himself into a really deep hole early on.
This innings of 46* should repair his reputation, but I doubt it will. Those who don’t rate him won’t count this knock in a dead-rubber, sub-par total as anything special. Most will only see 46* on a scorecard and forget it minutes later. Hopefully the few who did see it will think of this innings as something worth getting off George Bailey’s back for.
At least for the time being.