Return of big-hitting Aussie ’keeper

Until yesterday,George Bailey didn’t know what it felt like to represent his country in cricket

Written by Aditya Iyer | Sydney | Published: February 2, 2012 1:12 am

Until yesterday,George Bailey didn’t know what it felt like to represent his country in cricket. Today,he has a 100 per cent win record as captain and a batting average of infinity in T20s. While those records will reach more human levels soon enough,Bailey did wonderfully well for a man who wasn’t just wearing the captain’s armband for the first time,but the Australia colours itself.

But the best decision that Bailey took wasn’t on the cricket field today. Rather,it was behind closed doors on match eve — that of promoting wicketkeeper Matthew Wade to the very top of the order. Until yesterday,Wade didn’t know what it was to open the innings,let alone win a match for Australia. But playing in just his third T20I,the 24-year old registered a fine 43-ball 72 to become the major difference between the two sides.

It was the return of the big-hitting wicketkeeper for Australia. More importantly,it was a refreshing change from all the surrounding talk of Brad Haddin’s form in the Tests. Haddin,of course,had been dropped from the ODIs after having hit rock bottom with the bat,now Bailey’s mind and Wade’s willow had tag-teamed to keep him there. “Matty’s batting was outstanding. For him to build that platform for other players to work around made it much easier for me to captain the side,” said Bailey.

Wade started slowly and soon picked his scoring rate. But all along,he took it upon his young and nimble feet to keep the knee pressed against MS Dhoni’s neck. While his first boundary,off Praveen Kumar,came off a streaky edge to third man,the rest of Wade’s strokes were right out of the chunk of his bat.

The lefty remained cautious until the eighth over,steadily progressing to 24 in just over a run-a-ball,before thundering Ravichandran Ashwin into the plastic seats to break free. When Ravindra Jadeja tried forcing it in faster,Wade simply played him like a medium-pacer,working around his spin and tonking it over covers for a boundary.

Wade continued to give Jadeja special attention,taking him to the cleaners in the 13th over of the game. The Victorian pulled a low Jadeja full-toss bowled down the leg-side to the fine-leg hoardings to move within three of his first T20 fifty. It came in style off the next ball,as he muscled a flighted one from the back of his crease into the waiting sea of palms behind the long-on stands.

Wade later said: “It was nice to make good of my promotion,I found out only last night when the coach relayed the words over. Now I want to take this on to Melbourne and then to the one-dayers.” When one journalist asked him if he would like to give Haddin more sleepless nights,Wade added: “I don’t know how well Hadds will sleep. I’m just concentrating on doing my bit on the field and leave the rest to the skipper.”

That’s Bailey,a man who will be sleeping well tonight.

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