As Shane Watson swung hard at a juicy half-volley from Yuvraj Singh, his blade turned a fraction, just before impact. The ball sailed high into the air and then settled in the waiting palms of Ravindra Jadeja. Australia’s most vaunted batsman trudged back, having faced just four balls.
At that point, the general sentiment that rippled around the ground seemed to be that the first ODI of the seven-match series would disintegrate into a middling affair. Opener Aaron Finch, in the company of a steady Phil Hughes, had laid a solid foundation. However, with Hughes and Watson departing in quick succession, the Australian innings seemed to be in danger of losing way. Watson’s replacement George Bailey, playing his first ODI in India, joined Finch.
Bailey’s ODI average is a healthy 46.01 and a major chunk of his runs have come when the top order has already returned to the hut. In the fourth ODI against England at Cardiff last month, he had walked in with Australia 57/4 and hauled his team to the respectability of a 227-run total with a battling 87. A week earlier, he had scored 82 and stitched a 155-run partnership with regular captain Michael Clarke, coming in at 116/3.
With Australia needing another rescue act, Bailey and Finch set about rebuilding the innings. Bailey’s plan seemed simple enough. He put a check on anything extravagant, preferring to work the ball away for singles as he found his rhythm and adjusted to the pace of the wicket.
The wicket at the MCA stadium, which according to Bailey at the toss “looked like a nice batting wicket,” did not really spring any surprises. Though the Indian spinners did not extract any notable turn from the wicket, Bailey began warily against them.
The Indian bowlers, particularly Yuvraj Singh and Ravindra treated Bailey to short wide deliveries, which he cut for fours. Yuvraj soon accounted for Finch, out for a 79-ball 72, but Bailey in the company of Adam Voges, briefly, and then Glenn Maxwell, trundled along.
Apart from a rare moment of indiscretion which sent Voges back to the pavilion — Bailey dropped the ball towards point and hared off, leaving Voges at the mercy of a direct hit from Yuvraj — Bailey hardly took any risks. His employment of the sweep shot was particularly impressive. When Bailey swept, there seemed to be