George Bailey continued his impressive one day record scoring a brisk 85 off 82 balls and then captaining astutely to lead Australia to a 72-run victory over India in the first One-Day International (ODI) in Pune on Sunday.
Bailey, the fastest Australian to 1,000 runs in ODI cricket, paced his innings perfectly to ensure Australia scored the 290 on the 8th occasion in India. An important figure considering India highest run-chase against Australia is 288, a couple of years ago.
If his batting was impressive, he’s captaincy was top notch. He used his strike bowler; Mitchell Johnson in short bursts and introduced him into the attack at a time India looked to be cruising during the middle overs.
The first instance of Bailey’s brilliant captaincy came in the 14th over when India promoted, Suresh Raina to No 4. Raina is suspect against the short ball and within couple of overs Bailey introduced his quickest man. Johnson, to his credit, didn’t over do the short stuff and kept Raina guessing with a series of straight Yorkers, followed up by a short ball directed at his body. Although Raina did not perish to Johnson, the two overs he faced against Johnson clearly unsettled Raina and eventually perished few over’s-later, attempting a wild slog.
Raina was replaced by Yuvraj Singh, the man who destroyed the Australian bowling only couple of days ago in the T20. Once again Bailey immediately turned to Johnson, brought in a slip and moved his square leg and fine leg a lot finer. Once again Johnson held the short ball back; he attacked Yuvraj’s stumps and his hips before eventually bowling a short fast lifting delivery that Yuvraj fended with no feet movement into the waiting hands of keeper Phil Hughes.
MS Dhoni was also greeted by a slip, with only three men were left outside the 30-yard circle. The Australian captain was aware his counterpart’s ability of manipulating the strike early. It was imperative Dhoni was forced to take risks earlier in the innings than later. It was brilliant to watch Bailey dragging the Indians out of their comfort zone.
The three instances ensured Bailey aggressive mindset as a captain; he never allowed the Indians to settle and rotate the strike. Bailey was aware if Australia failed to dislodge India’s middle-order, the opposition was more than capable of scoring eight to nine runs an over in the final 15 odd overs.
Given the mandatory batting power would be taken around the 35th over, Bailey was aware by the time Johnson had dismissed Yuvraj, India would look to rotate the strike and only take risks during the batting play.
The Tasmanian then introduced Shane Watson, his most accurate bowler. Bailey figured rotating strike against Watson bowling stump to stump created an element of risks. Bailey’s theory would pay off as Virat Kohli tried to play one across the line and was trapped lnw for 58. The partnership between India’s last recognised pair has been broken and Australia had slammed the door shut.
At the end of the match Bailey was asked about his captaincy and stated he had made the decision on a gut feel. “Knowing how difficult it can be to take wickets in the middle overs can be over here, and knowing how deep India bat, Johnson always provides something and there’s really energy in the game whenever he comes on, he doesn’t really like to bowl short spells but he took it really well tonight”
Bailey continues to grow as ODI batsmen and as a leader. He might not possess the finesse of Clarke, but he certainly has inherited the attacking mindset.
(Gaurav Joshi is an Indian-born Australian who played with Michael Clarke in his junior days. He coaches and reports for a Sydney radio station. Over the years he has freelanced for Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is a regular on ABC cricket show Cow Corner. He is the author of the book “Teen Thunder Down Under” – The inside story of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup Triumph)