Underwhelming: selectors may not want to mess with a winning team but George Bailey could be on the chopping block for next month's series against South Africa. Photo: Brendan Esposito
The format which delivered George Bailey the chance to earn his baggy green is now throwing the batsman a Test lifeline but a tight schedule means he is no sure thing to take on South Africa even if selected for the tour.
Bailey broke into Australia's Ashes side on the back of his excellent form in the one-day arena but after an unconvincing debut series the Tasmanian would dearly love the return to coloured clothing to coincide with another torrent of runs if he is to see a sixth Test.
With national selectors tipped to finalise their touring party possibly as early as next week, Sunday's opening ODI against England in Melbourne could be the final opportunity for the 31-year-old to press his claims to tour South Africa.
But even if Bailey secures a seat on the plane Cricket Australia's cramped international schedule could leave him a sitting duck for a challenger, such as state teammate Alex Doolan, to pip him at the post for the first Test in Centurion.
As captain of the national Twenty20 team, Bailey will be required for the three-game series against England, which finishes on February 2, just three days before the start of a four-day Test warm-up game against a South African Invitation XI in Potchefstroom.
Unless Bailey is released from the Twenty20 side, which seems unlikely given there is a T20 world cup starting March, it would be far from ideal for him to play in the tour game due to the length of travel and jetlag.
David Warner, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin, who are first-choice players in both Australia's Test and T20 teams, are also likely to be in a similar boat.
Juggling Australia's Test ambitions against the top-ranked South Africa with their goals of winning a maiden Twenty20 world title immediately after will be an issue for Pat Howard's team performance department, which has been focused on the Ashes all summer, and selectors as they plan for the short-term future.
CA have already confirmed there will be a group of players who will fly to South Africa after the completion of the ODI series on January 26. It is possible CA may also send over some development players, like they did with Ashton Agar in India last year, so they can field a full team for the tour game without diluting their Twenty20 side.
The jury remains out on Bailey as a Test player after a series which yielded a moderate 183 runs at 26.
Although Bailey, ranked No. 4 in the world as an ODI batsman, showed he could attack when quick runs were required in the second innings he made only one significant contribution – a half-century in Adelaide – when Australia were under pressure.
The desire to keep a winning team together will play in Bailey's favour though coach Darren Lehmann has identified Australia's top-order batting in the first innings of games as a weakness which needs to be rectified.
In four of the five Tests Australia were five wickets down without reaching 150.
"Again we were 5-97 [in Sydney]. We come up against South Africa away from home and we have to certainly improve our first-innings batting," Lehmann said.
"If you want to be the side we want to be we have to win away from home. Simple as that.
"We haven't done it for a while so from our point of view we have to start to win in different conditions that are difficult against quality opposition.
"We need to improve and raise the bar."