How Bailey's bold calls shaped Australia's World Cup win

Five years after Australia claimed their fifth 50-over World Cup, former captain George Bailey reflects on his part in the victorious campaign

George Bailey played only one match in the 2015 World Cup but two strategic moves he implemented as skipper in the preceding months proved instrumental in Australia lifting the trophy for a fifth time.

Bailey, as he is quick to remind you, was the only undefeated captain of the 2015 World Cup staged on Australian and New Zealand shores, leading the eventual champions in the tournament opener against arch-rivals England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

That's where his involvement as a player began and ended in the ultimately successful campaign, although his mischievous efforts running the drinks in the final against the Black Caps and ensuing celebrations will go down in Australian folklore.

The return of Michael Clarke from injury meant Bailey spent the remainder of the tournament on the sidelines after the England clash, but he was content knowing he had already made a significant impact on the one-day side leading up the World Cup while Clarke was out with a dodgy hammy.

"'Pup' (Clarke) had missed heaps of one-day cricket in the lead up to the World Cup so I felt I'd had a contribution to the team and the shaping of it," Bailey told The Unplayable Podcast.

"My claim to fame, and no doubt he would have ended up there anyway, (but) we'd been using Steve Smith at six or seven in the one-day team and in Zimbabwe (the previous August-September) we threw Mitch Marsh up to three in a game. 

"I made a suggestion that it should be Steve Smith (at three) because at that time Mitch could, and still can, bludgeon the ball, but I couldn't see him batting for the full innings, where I could see 'Smudger' (Smith) batting for 50 overs, making those key hundreds that you could bat around.

"That recommendation was taken up and that played a huge part – Smudger was three right throughout the World Cup and hasn't moved since."

Steve Smith struck a semi-final century in front of his home fans // Getty

The masterstroke paid off, but it wasn't without a sense of irony for Bailey.

Having started the 2014 ODI tri-series against South Africa and hosts Zimbabwe at No.6, Smith was dropped for Clarke, who injured a hamstring before the start of series.

In his comeback game, Clarke re-injured his hamstring, meaning Smith was recalled for the next game – against the Proteas – and elevated to No.3 for the first time.

Clarke's absence gave Smith a chance, while it was his return at the World Cup which forced Bailey out of the XI.

In his first innings at first-drop in Australia's ODI side, Smith posted 35 while it was Marsh, now batting at No.6, who was named player of the match for his rapid 86 from 51 balls and two wickets.

Two innings and five weeks later, now against Pakistan in Sharjah, Smith scored his maiden ODI century and locked in his place at No.3 for the World Cup. It also meant when Clarke would return from injury, it was Bailey who had to make way.

Smith would go on to make 407 runs at 67 in the tournament and hit the winning runs in the final in front of a packed MCG before leaping into the arms of non-striker Shane Watson in jubilant celebration.

Steve Smith and Shane Watson celebrate the winning runs // Getty

That contribution from Bailey affected the batting, while his second idea was to do with the ball.

"The other thing was trying to convince Mitchell Johnson that I thought he could have a bigger impact as a first-change bowler rather than with the new ball," Bailey said.

"I think Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc both probably swung the ball a bit more than Mitch (Johnson) did at that stage with the white ball and I've thought swing at the start of a one-day game was key.

"There might be days where they might only bowl two overs, but for a fast bowler, particularly one like Mitch, that psyche of taking the new ball is quite big.

"So that took quite a bit of time for him to understand if those two guys can get us off to a good start and then you come on – put yourself in the batter's shoes, you get through the two opening bowlers and then you've got to deal with Mitchell Johnson.

"That had a really good impact and I think Mitch did that role phenomenally well throughout the World Cup.

"They were two things that, even though I wasn't on the ground, I felt like I had been part of shaping the team."

Johnson after the big wicket of Kane Williamson in the final // Getty

Johnson's first match as a first-change bowler came in the ODI tri-series final against England on his home turf of the WACA Ground just a fortnight out from the World Cup.

Coming on in the seventh over behind Starc and Hazlewood, the left-armer struck with his seventh delivery, removing England's No.3 James Taylor. In his third over he was on a hat-trick after dismissing opener Moeen Ali and captain Eoin Morgan in consecutive deliveries.

Johnson finished with 3-27 and picked up 2-36 against the same opponents in the same role at the MCG two weeks later.

The left-armer's two worst games of the tournament were when Clarke, back in the team as captain, handed Johnson the new ball, but by the time the final group stage clash against Scotland and the knockout games arrived, he was back at first-change and bowling at his hostile best.

In the semi-final, he broke India's spirits during their run chase with the prized wickets of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, then in the final he added the scalp of Kane Williamson among figures of 3-30 in what proved to be his ODI farewell.

On a rampage in the semi-final against India // Getty

While he wasn't physically on the field for long during Australia's successful campaign, Bailey's touches could be felt through the impact of Smith and Johnson in their changed roles, and that was more than enough for the Tasmanian.

"The 2015 World Cup is the only time I've coveted something," he said. "I realised how special it was going to be.

"One, to be around a one-day team when there's a World Cup on given it's only every four years but two, to have it in Australia was going to be unreal on the back of how special the (2013-14) Ashes summer had been.

"I knew what it was like when the public was going to get behind you the way they were going to."

Great success! High five! // Getty