Voges the man to replace Bailey

Date: January 17, 2014 / Posted by control

The eleven men who combined through five Test matches to win back the Ashes this summer are no doubt still basking in the glory of what was an outstanding achievement.

For ten of those involved they know, injury aside, they will be lining up at Centurion on 12 February when the opening Test of three against world number one South Africa gets underway. The one man who will continue to have sleepless nights is George Bailey.

On the back of blistering one-day form in both England and India ahead of the Ashes series he was given his chance to transfer his game to the Test arena as the 436th man to be accorded the honour of donning the famous baggy green.

Alas for Bailey his maiden series did not pan out as he would have hoped as he could only manage 183 runs at 26.1, his highest score being 53 at Adelaide. It did not augur well for the affable Tasmanian that his performances came against an England outfit that was, in the main, woefully devoid of form and confidence.

Despite the old adage that you don’t make changes to a winning team Bailey’s immediate tenure is certainly under the microscope especially given Australia’s next assignment pitches them head-to-head with the top-two ranked bowlers in the world, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn.

Bailey’s technique, as many thought would be the case, was found out against England with too many dismissals resulting from deliveries in the channel outside off-stump. That technical deficiency would be probed even more severely by the likes of Steyn and Philander.

So if Bailey is to be jettisoned just who are the potential candidates to gain entry to the side in South Africa?

The names being bandied around at present are New South Welshman Nic Maddinson, Tasmanian pair Jordan Silk and Alex Doolan, Queensland’s Chris Lynn and the Redback’s Phil Hughes. That’s a fair field, and with the exception of Hughes, they are yet to make their Test debut.

Doolan, at 28, is the most senior in terms of age. His name is perhaps the one that is most often thrown up with many in fact preferring him to Bailey for the job at number six heading into the Ashes. He first came to national attention following his unbeaten 161 for Australia A last summer at the SCG, interestingly against the touring Proteas that were fielding Steyn and Philander.

He started the current summer in blazing form with innings of 56 and 132 against New South Wales. Since then his form has not been as bright as he carries a series average of 39.1 after five Shield matches.

His Tasmanian teammate, 21-year-old Silk has had a boon start to his first-class career with four centuries from his first 11 matches – this season, in six Shield matches, he has averaged 35.1 and a career average of 38.1.

Left-hander Maddinson, who opens for the Blues, has amassed 418 runs at 38.0 from his six Shield outings this season to give him a first-class average of 40 after 33 matches.

Lynn has been in blistering form for the Heat in the BBL and also fared well to the halfway point of the Shield season with a five-match return of 405 runs at 57.8. After 26 first-class matches, and at the age of 23, he boasts a career average of 43.2.

And then there is Hughes, who if he were to be recalled to the Test side would be doing so for the fifth time. In all he has played 26 Tests which have produced a roller-coaster ride and 1535 runs at 32.6. In that time he has been employed as an opener and at numbers three, four and six. His last two stints in the side lasted seven and nine matches yet he has failed to nail a spot with his unorthodox technique against international bowling still proving to be suspect. On the home front he continues to make merry having scored 549 runs at 61.0 from five Shield matches for his adopted state.

So there you have it – five candidates, other than the incumbent, who are all thought to be in the frame for fourth drop against South Africa. Personally, I would not go for any of them.

Bailey it appears will be found out and given his recent international exposure so will Hughes. The other four all have cases to mount, however I would not be looking to blood them against South Africa.

Against such a potent pace attack I believe Australia would be best served selecting a player who has already tasted the international arena, albeit in this case not at Test level, and who also has a wealth of experience behind him. My choice would be Adam Voges.

He has hardly put a foot wrong when he has been called upon to play limited-overs cricket for his country – 31 ODIs for 870 runs at 45.8 and seven T20s for 139 runs at 46.3. This season he posted a career high 235 not out against Queensland and averages 72.2 from his four Shield appearances this summer. In a 139-game first-class career he has scored 8637 runs at 41.5 and has also performed handily with his left-arm finger spinners, capturing 43 wickets at 34.1.

 Yes, I can hear you screaming, he is 34 years of age. Personally, I do not see that as a real concern.

Currently, Chris Rogers is doing particularly well at the top of the order but he will turn 37 before next summer and his tenure will be very much short-lived from here. His place may well be taken by someone like Maddinson who is currently 22.

Two current members of the top-six, David Warner (27) and Steve Smith (24) have potentially many years ahead of them. That leaves Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, both 32.

Given the tender ages of the likes of Silk and Lynn there are replacements currently being groomed at domestic and Australia A level should Clarke succumb to his back injury or Watson to either form or injury. The uncapped pair will most likely tour with Australian XIs in the near future.

Brad Haddin, who turns 37 in October, has set the World Cup at the end of next summer as his international swansong. There are some strong candidates for his role in the shape of Tim Paine (29), Matthew Wade (26), Peter Nevill (28) or perhaps, by then, even Sam Whiteman (21).

Let’s never forget that Michael Hussey debuted at Test level after he turned 30 and went on to make 79 appearances.

The South African tour will be a big test for whoever bats at number six. For mine, I would like to see Voges in the breach. He has had success at international level and boasts a first-class career average superior to many of the other untried Test aspirants. I believe he has the best credentials to succeed against the potent Proteas’ attack in a series that will benchmark just where Australia currently sits in the Test arena.

First published on ‘The Roar’ – theroar.com.au – on 16 January 2014

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