Bailey looking to make England Lions impact
Lancashire fast bowler Tom Bailey is keen to make an impact on the England Lions tour of India.
“I knew that if I could stay fit the whole season then I would perform,” said England Lions debutant Tom Bailey and he did just that in a stellar 2018 for Lancashire, taking 64 first class wickets.
That tally was the second highest in the country and resulted in a first England call-up for the 27-year-old from Preston. Bailey was the oldest player in the squad when it was first announced for the tour to India – nine days the senior of experienced Lion Danny Briggs.
Steven Mullaney, who was a late call-up to this squad, is just over four years older than Bailey but is another who enjoyed a Lions call-up later in his career when he made his debut last summer. Mullaney, unlike Bailey, played U19 cricket for England at the start of his career.
Bailey was flown to India early as cover for the limited-overs matches and made his debut in the final white-ball game against India A on Thursday, taking an impressive 2/23 and playing a crucial role with the bat in a Lions win.
And he will now hope to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman who made their Lions debuts in their late 20s and went on to represent England.
“You know in yourself that if you do well and your stats are good enough then you’ll play [for England], and that’s what I kept telling myself throughout the years I’ve played cricket. I thought my age might be an issue but clearly it’s not,” Bailey said.
“I started my county career quite late, so maybe I needed a couple more years to get into it, but the biggest thing for me last year was just having the full season. I’d had similar stats the previous years but had only managed half the amount of games, so it was important to me to play that full season.”
Injuries restricted Bailey to 31 first class matches between his debut in 2012 and the start of the 2018 season, but a clean bill of health last season saw him feature in 15 Specsavers County Championship games, with his 64 wickets coming at under 20 runs apiece.
"County cricketers must see a pathway up to the England team and it’s just reward for outstanding consistent performance", said, Andy Flower.
Bailey believes his development opportunities at Lancashire have played a huge part in him now taking this next step in his career. With the likes of Glen Chapple, Jimmy Anderson and Graham Onions on the books at Emirates Old Trafford during his time with the county, Bailey has had the perfect role models.
“The fact that I’ve had to compete with Chapple, Jimmy and Bunny – they’re three of the best bowlers to play county cricket, and one is the best fast bowler in the world,” he said.
“It’s not a bad thing as a young lad to come up against these guys – it almost makes it easier when you do go out onto the circuit and play, but you couldn’t ask for better people to learn from.”
Lions head coach Andy Flower believes Bailey’s selection should provide inspiration to other players who’ve been on the county circuit for a while that sustained levels of performance can catch the eye of selectors.
“County cricketers must see a pathway up to the England team and it’s just reward for outstanding consistent performance,” he said.
“Age is a factor, there’s no doubt about that as historically the Lions system is the feeder for the England side. But I think it’s important that there are different ways of getting into the national side.
“Some like Joe Root, Alastair Cook or Stuart Broad may go through the Lions very quickly into the England team. Others, like Jonathan Trott, may take a little longer but it doesn’t mean they can’t have successful international careers."
“People develop at different rates and we know that from the data and information we have on maturation. That maturation might be physical, it might be emotional or of their skills. It could be that they’re settling into their understanding of their own games and the game of cricket and they’re all factors in which I think we should allow for flexibility.
“Tom Bailey has come in to an England setup a little later than most of the other guys but he looks like he knows his game well and he looks skilful at what he does.
“Bailey has just come off two good seasons with Lancashire, he’s on good form, he’s confident and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in these alien conditions.”
England Lions play two four-day ‘Test’ matches against India A, with the first starting in Wayanad on February 7.
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