Australia elevated batsman George Bailey to its Test cricket squad and recalled left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson for next week’s Ashes series opener against England.
Bailey, the captain of Australia’s Twenty20 team, beat out his fellow Tasmanian Alex Doolan for a place in the 12-man squad named today in Brisbane, where the five-match series begins Nov. 21. England won 3-0 when it hosted Australia earlier this year and is the even-money favorite with bookmaker Tabcorp Holdings Ltd. (TAH) to win its fourth straight series against its oldest rival.
“George Bailey has been, as everybody is aware, in fantastic form with the bat,” national selector John Inverarity said at a news conference. “His confidence is riding high and his performance in international one-day cricket has been quite extraordinary, and he is very deserving of his opportunity.”
Bailey, 31, captained Australia in its recent one-day series against India, where he top scored for the team with 478 runs at an average of 95.60. Regular skipper Michael Clarke missed that tour to focus on his recovery from a back injury.
Bailey made 34 and 41 playing for Tasmania last week in Australia’s long-form Sheffield Shield competition, where he averaged just 18.28 the previous season. He said he’s confident his success in limited-over international cricket will carry over into elite five-day Tests.
“It’s just good form, so just hit the ball,” Bailey said in televised comments. “It’s the same approach and I feel very comfortable with where I’m at at the moment. I’m as excited as anyone to find out how I measure up.”
Apart from the addition of Bailey, the only other change to the team that played against England at the Oval in London in August was the return of Johnson in place of injured left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc.
Johnson, 32, returns for his third Ashes series after missing the 3-0 loss in England and joins Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle in the home team’s pace bowling attack. Nathan Lyon was chosen as the specialist spinner.
With allrounder Shane Watson being treated for a hamstring injury sustained Nov. 2, James Faulkner was included in the squad as his backup.
Inverarity said the hope is Watson is fit to bowl at Brisbane’s Gabba stadium, where Australia is on a 24-match unbeaten run going back to 1988.
“Shane is progressing well in regaining his fitness,” he said. “We’re confident that he’ll be fit to play. We’re not sure as yet to the extent to which he’ll be able to bowl.”
After winning eight straight Ashes contests between 1989 and 2003, Australia lost four of the past five and faces the prospect of four consecutive series defeats against its archrival for the first time since the late 1800s. England won seven in a row between 1884 and 1890.
The teams are playing back-to-back series to avoid a rushed turnaround between the Ashes and the 2015 Cricket World Cup, which Australia will co-host with New Zealand early that year.
“It’s obviously a huge summer for us, there’s no doubt about it,” Australia captain Clarke told reporters. “I think it’s great for cricket that we have an opportunity to play another Ashes series so quickly. We can’t wait for Thursday.”
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Michael Clarke (captain), David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin (vice-captain), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, James Faulkner, Nathan Lyon.
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