Bailey a hit with over the top approach

CRICKET is so swamped by statistics, some of them are bound to surprise. Like this one: going into the third Ashes Test at the WACA Ground, George Bailey is on track to be the greatest six-hitter the game has seen.

Bailey's three Test innings have included five sixes, accounting for exactly a third of his 90 runs. It's a ratio that will take some maintaining, yet the 31-year-old's willingness to back in the Test arena a trait that has made him a formidable short-form performer is laudable.

For his father and first coach John, it's not so much that his son is hitting sixes but where he's hitting them that speaks to the most significant recent leap in his game.

``That's probably been his biggest improvement in the last couple of years _ that he hits the ball so straight. Most of them used to go over mid-wicket, cow corner,'' John Bailey says.

``That's the thing I noticed in India in the one-day games over there, and in the two Tests he's played, he's hitting them very straight.''

John coached his son, and other Tasmanian cricketers including James Faulkner and Tom Triffitt, at Launceston Grammar, and says the young George was an aggressive batsman prepared to take the risk of hitting over the top.

He remembers him regularly clearing the boundary from around the age of 14.

``He's not a very big person, so it's a bit of a shock for people, but his strike-rate in one-day cricket is very good,'' Bailey snr says.

Indeed, the six one-dayers in India in October proved a launchpad not just to a late-blooming Test career, but how he has approached it from the outset (Bailey struck 15 sixes in the first five of those ODIs before failing in the last game in Bangalore).

Even Adam Gilchrist struck only three sixes in his first 19 Test innings, before finishing his extraordinary career with 100.

Coincidentally, Bailey's biggest rival to the current-day mantle _ New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult _ was in action at the Basin Reserve in Wellington yesterday, hitting two sixes against the West Indies. The No.11 took his career tally to 253 runs with 14 sixes, a smidge shy of Bailey's ratio.

Cricket stats guru Ric Finlay reports that the record of Boult's teammate Tim Southee is even more astounding. In his 28th Test, the 25-year-old has made 216 of his 752 runs in 36 mighty blows. This puts Southee comfortably ahead of sloggers Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul, of Pakistan, who sit either side of West Indian Michael Holding on the six-slugging list of cricketers with a minimum of 500 Test runs.

In 50-over internationals, Bailey's 36 sixes have accounted for 14 per cent of his 1539 runs. For context, that betters a more renowned willow-wielder from another time, Simon O'Donnell (28 sixes and 13.5 per cent of his 1242 runs), although he has some ground to make up on Kiwi Lance Cairns, who smote 41 one-day sixes _ a quarter of his total runs.

Like all Australian fans, John Bailey is enjoying watching his son free his arms, but reasons that he's simply benefiting from an approach that a hittable ball is there to be launched, whether you're in the Test arena or the schoolyard.

``I think that's credit to Darren Lehmann _ he's told George that he's been picked because of that ability. It's having that belief _ and your coach giving you that belief.''

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