George Bailey will make his Test debut in the opening Ashes clash against England next week, while Mitchell Johnson returns to Australia’s pace attack, the selectors said yesterday.
Bailey got the nod in a 12-man squad on the back of his remarkable one-day international form, including the recent tour to India where he amassed 478 runs at 95.60 while also serving as captain.
“We have included George Bailey in this lineup and are excited by what he can offer at Test level,” national selector John Inverarity said of the 31-year-old, ahead of the first Test in Brisbane, starting on Thursday next week. “He is calm and composed, and comes into the squad full of confidence.”
Bailey said his approach to the five-day Test format would be no different from that he employs in the one-day game.
“It’s just good form, so just hit the ball,” Bailey said. “It’s the same approach and I feel very comfortable with where I’m at at the moment.”
The selectors will be hoping he can bring much-needed stability to the middle order, with the Tasmanian preferred to state colleague Alex Doolan.
“Alex Doolan is a very highly regarded player in our eyes, but George Bailey has been in fantastic form with the bat,” Inverarity said.
There were no surprises in the squad, with a rejuvenated David Warner to open the innings with Chris Rogers after hitting four centuries in the past month and all-rounder Shane Watson included, despite a niggling hamstring injury.
“Shane is progressing very well in regaining his fitness and we’re confident he’ll be fit to play,” said Inverarity, although how much he can bowl remains to be seen.
James Faulkner is likely to be 12th man, although he will play if Watson does not recover from his injury sufficiently.
Johnson returns to the attack alongside Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle in the absence of the injured Mitchell Starc, with the 32-year-old left-armer set for his first Test since Australia’s loss to India in March.
Inverarity said Johnson’s bowling has been impressive “with good rhythm and generating good pace.”
“So we’re confident he will acquit himself very well and he will be a bowler to the fore in our attack,” he said.
Skipper Michael Clarke was equally effusive about Johnson, saying he had shown both speed and control.
“I said a couple of days ago that if Mitch was selected in this squad it wouldn’t surprise me in a couple of months’ time [if] you see Mitch being man of the series,” Clarke said.
Australia go into the Test with virtually all their players in good form, either during the recent one-day tour of India or in Sheffield Shield games over the past few weeks.
This is in stark contrast to the Ashes tour of England earlier this year when their preparations were badly disrupted after coach Mickey Arthur was sacked just 18 days before the first Test and Warner was suspended for ill-discipline.
Clarke said all the players in contention for the five-Test series had done exactly what coach Darren Lehmann had asked of them, as they attempt to reverse their 3-0 defeat in England and prevent their old rivals winning a fourth successive Ashes series.
England, who have a final warm-up against an Invitational XI in Sydney beginning today, have injury concerns over wicketkeeper Matt Prior, struggling with a injured calf muscle, and batsman Kevin Pietersen, who is recovering from a knee problem.