The Ashes 2013-14: Australia pin hopes on Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey making a difference

All-rounder Shane Watson is also named in side although doubts remain over his fitness as he continues recovery from a hamstring injury

Australia have been floundering in the wilderness for long enough. They marked their renewed attempt to find a way out on Tuesday by retaining 10 players who appeared in their most recent Test in England. It was as if to insist that a 3-0 series defeat managed to achieve some kind of stability. Or, indeed, credibility.

But they also recognised that something extra is needed to emerge from this barren wasteland of wretched results and entrusted the task to a 32-year-old fast bowler who seemed to be part of the past and a 31-year-old batsman who never appeared destined to be part of the future. They are Mitchell Johnson, who will make his 52nd Test appearance in the first match of this series at Brisbane next week, and George Bailey, who will make his first.

Both, in their way, are choices made from desperation as much as pragmatism. England, who had another practice ruined by rain today, will have taken note. But for once they really do have things to worry about other than the opposition.

Relief is promised from the weather for most of the rest of this week but the early signs are that the rain will pursue them to Queensland early next week before the Test begins. On the bright side, it reduces the chances of anybody else sustaining injuries.

Johnson has been there, done that to such an extent that he was once ICC World Cricketer of the Year. After making his debut in late 2007, he missed only one of Australia’s next 48 Tests but has been a fringe figure for the last two years. The selection panel are pinning their hopes and their judgement on Johnson’s recent one-day form in England and India, where he bowled with pace, verve and accuracy.

At his best he is a truly awesome figure, loping in with a loose, relaxed rhythm and propelling the ball at high speed with late swing. But there is a difference, as Australia may find, between doing this for 10 overs in a one-day international and over five days and two innings in a Test match.

A similar observation applies to Bailey, who owes his selection to his resplendent one-day form. He has been Australia’s leading batsman lately and on the recent tour of India scored 478 runs in six innings.

Still, his summons to the Test team is a hunch because he has been moderate in the Sheffield Shield, with only one fifty in his last 16 innings. Last season his average was 18.29, which is not the most solid of platforms for an Ashes hero.

Johnson played his usual part in the phony war yesterday, promising to visit all manner of vengeance on the Poms, short, but only just, of plagues of boils and pestilence. Alastair Cook, the captain, is in his 95mph line of fire, as is Jonathan Trott, whom he peppered in England during the late summer limited-overs matches.

“There are guys in their team who we’ll definitely go after,” he said. “If I can get a few of those rearing balls towards the ribs or those throat balls, and if he gets in the way of it, that’s his fault.”

All good stuff from a chap who is much too pleasant to mean any of it, but also reminiscent of the past. Three years ago when England were last in town, Johnson said: “They really look up to their captain, Andrew Strauss, and that is someone we need to target. If we can get him to crumble, then their players start thinking the same thing and thinking negatively and so that is someone we will definitely be going after.” The French have a saying for it.

Bailey is an excellent fellow and there may be another element to his inclusion. In the absence of Michael Clarke, he was captain of Australia in the Champions Trophy in England last summer and on the recent tour of India, impressing all with his candour and gentle wisdom.

It is the convention in Australia that their Test captain is always nominated after the team is chosen. Should something happen to Clarke during the course of the next few weeks – and a couple of early defeats might make anything possible – it is not out of bounds that a captaincy change is decreed.

Then it would be much easier to alight on Bailey as a player already in the team. Perhaps the selectors have not thought along those lines, perhaps they have.

Perhaps Clarke will be captain for the next three years. Perhaps, like Allan Border before him 25 years ago, he will lead Australia from the wilderness, starting in Brisbane next week.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice