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Mitchell Johnson cements Australia's fightback

A day that appeared to be going England's way was turned around first by Brad Haddin and Steve Smith with the bat, then Mitchell Johnson with the ball.

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George Bailey began his Test career in Brisbane five matches ago with a nick to first slip, and a repeat of that dismissal on the opening day of the Sydney Test might have finished it.

In between, Bailey has played some rollicking cameos in a successful team - his take-down of Jimmy Anderson in Perth will go down as one of the most destructive overs in Test history, and the smiling Tasmanian accentuated England's misery with 53 in the previous match in Adelaide.

Stuart Broad

Stuart Broad celebrates after taking the wicket of George Bailey. Photo: Getty Images

But there is no escaping the feeling that unless Bailey produces something spectacular in the second innings at the SCG, he will not command a place on the plane to South Africa.

In all five Tests, Brad Haddin has papered over Australia's first innings failings, but Bailey's part in them has not escaped the attention of coach and selector Darren Lehmann. ''George needs to make some runs, like a lot of other players,'' Lehmann said after the Boxing Day Test. ''The simple fact is our first-innings batting hasn't been good enough. Even in Adelaide, it was Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin who got that big partnership [of 200 after Australia had been 5-257]. We have to make sure we're improving our batting each and every time and we weren't good enough in the first innings here.''

In Melbourne, Bailey was condemned to a 19-ball duck by the decision review system even though he was certain he didn't edge the ball. But his poor first innings returns, and concerns about the fitness of Shane Watson to bowl enough overs to be considered a genuine fifth bowler, meant there was a strong chance he would be replaced by all-rounder James Faulkner for the series finale in Sydney.

George Bailey of Australia leaves the field after being dismissed by Stuart Broad.

George Bailey of Australia leaves the field after being dismissed by Stuart Broad. Photo: Getty Images

Bailey held his place as the selectors named an unchanged XI for the fifth Test in a row.

Watson's fall on the stroke of lunch brought Bailey to the crease at 4-94 after Alastair Cook sent Australia in on a seaming pitch, but he was unable to reward the selectors' faith.

He survived his first working over from Stuart Broad, who twice beat the bat with rising deliveries that nipped away, but fell to the first ball of the Englishman's next over. Caught on the crease, he nibbled outside off and was caught at the second attempt by Cook for one. It was a dismissal that would have Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander fancying their chances of edges in seam-friendly home conditions.

Bailey averages 22 in his debut series and 13 in the first innings, and his dismissal brought Haddin to the crease at 5-97 to launch yet another breathtaking counter-attack.

The No. 6 batting spot was the only position to be seriously debated before the Ashes summer, with Bailey getting the nod on the strength of his incredible scoring in the one-day international series in India.

The urn has been regained, but the spot will again be the subject of intense discussion before Australia takes on the world No. 1 next month. The selectors' decision to keep top-order batsman Alex Doolan with the squad in Sydney, rather than releasing him to the Melbourne Renegades, suggests he is in their plans for the South Africa tour. It remains to be seen whether Bailey will get there.