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MAGELLAN ASHES 2017-18

Bailey and a broken arm: the inside story

21 November 2017
Our voices

George Bailey finally lifts the lid on what really happened between him and Jimmy Anderson

About the Writer:
 @AdamBurnett09

Adam Burnett previously wrote for and edited at Inside Cricket magazine and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia and The Telegraph and the Guardian in the UK.

Ooooohhhh, Jimmy Jimmy
Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Anderson…

Rarely can a Barmy Army song have been used so effectively by an opponent of England.

The Barmy Army, who teased and tormented Mitchell Johnson to the point of distraction during the 2009 Ashes.

England's all-singing, all-drinking support crew, conjurer of catchy, occasionally witty ditties that help build the atmosphere of any Test at which they're present, while serving the equally important purpose of sinking the boot in to rivals in places they sense it will hurt most.

Last summer, Ricky Ponting memorably revealed on live television he could still recite the lyrics to the one about Mark Waugh and John the bookmaker.

Ponting sings Barmy Army's Mark Waugh song

Perhaps it's just a Tasmanian thing, because George Bailey remembers one, too. Couldn't get it out of his head, in fact, when he was standing at short leg and the subject of one particularly catchy tune was facing up to Mitchell Johnson in the opening Test of the 2013-14 Ashes.

Ooooohhhh, Jimmy Jimmy
Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Anderson…

"I find the Barmy Army songs quite catchy, and they were belting out the Jimmy Anderson song," Bailey recalled for cricket.com.au.

"It just got caught in my head, and I was singing it as he was about to face up."

Anderson didn't like it. A tribute song had become a source of tension for the decorated quick and he was uncomfortable with the script being so cannily flipped.

Least of all from a grinning Aussie debutant.

"He asked whether I thought the Barmy Army would ever write a song about me," Bailey said. "I replied I didn't think they would, that I really liked the songs they already had in their repertoire, (and) what they brought to the game.

"And then he said … out of everyone on the field, I was the one he'd most like to punch, which I thought was a bit rough; Davey Warner just hadn't drawn breath the whole time, and I thought, 'I've been quite friendly here'.

"I also realised I had a steel-reinforced helmet on, and 40,000 people in the stands, most of whom were going to back me up. So I've never felt more confident in a fight."

Bailey and Anderson go toe-to-toe // Getty
Bailey and Anderson go toe-to-toe // Getty

Famously – or infamously, depending on your take on the moment – Bailey also had his captain, Michael Clarke, more than willing to stand up for the newest member of the Baggy Green brotherhood.

And he had Johnson, in that moment the most dangerous man on the planet with a cricket ball in hand, snorting and snarling from 30 paces before sending down lethal 150kph throat balls at England's garrulous No.11.

"I was going after their tail," Johnson recalled. "That was part of our plan … to go hard at their tail.

"You're not purposely trying to break anyone, but you are trying to … I guess there was Davey Warner talking about fear in the eyes, and you're definitely trying to put some fear into them."

***

Australia hadn't won a Test out of their previous nine. They'd been wiped four-nil in India, outclassed three-zip in England. It was a scoresheet more in keeping with the 1980s, when the term 'battlers' was considered endearing to Allan Border's men who had a tough time keeping up with the West Indies, England and even a Hadlee-inspired New Zealand on occasion.

Borne out of that era though, had been Steve Waugh. A Bankstown kid with a no-frills upbringing, Waugh was predisposed to the scrap. He took 27 Tests to post a century – and tasted victory in just five of those matches.

Steve Waugh's verdict on England's Ashes squad

A decade on from that breakthrough hundred, Waugh became Test captain. Under his guidance, Australia eviscerated the West Indies' world record of 11 straight Test wins (extending the new mark to 16) and became renowned as one of the most uncompromisingly brilliant teams in cricket history.

Whether it was a settling of scores from those painful early years or some other motivation, Waugh was aggressive to the point of ruthlessness in his captaincy. He coined the term 'mental disintegration', a fancy term for the ugly alternative – 'sledging' – that has since made its way into cricket's lexicon with no less hostile connotations.

Critics questioned the need for the foot-on-the-throat mentality of a group that regularly referred to as the 'Ugly Aussies', but one fact remained irrefutable: Waugh's way was a winning way.

By his retirement in January 2004, the elder twin had won 41 of 57 matches in charge, a winning rate of 71.92 per cent that no captain has come close to, before or since.

***

Watching all this unfold was Clarke, another precociously gifted young batsman from western Sydney, though one who would make different moves to Waugh within the framework that leads to cricketing greatness. Clarke debuted in Baggy Green the same year Waugh retired, and despite hundreds in his first Tests both away and at home, soon became known for his ability to polarise the public as much as for his prowess with the blade.

After spending his formative international years straddling that liminal space between sportsman and celebrity, he underwent a reinvention in the build-up to the 2013-14 Ashes, due solely to the reason he had gained fame in the first place: he was very, very good at making runs.

From the Vault: Clarke's SCG Triple Treat

Clarke plundered a triple hundred against India, and three more doubles in the 12 months that followed; 329no, 210, 259no, 230, and then 187 in the Ashes for good measure. It was a Bradman-like return of monster hundreds, and in a struggling side, Clarke was often a lone source of hope for desperate fans accustomed to success.

When the captain teamed up with new coach Darren Lehmann in England that year, it was the coming together of two like-minded men. Sure, they had their differences, but both had an education in Waugh, so after nine Tests without victory, they were destined to resort to ruthlessness.

And they had the perfect weapon in Johnson.

***

There had been something made of Clarke's prior relationship with Anderson, after the Englishman revealed in a memoir they had clashed in the changerooms following the 2006 Ashes Test in Adelaide.

The Australian denies there was anything between the pair, other than the simple fact he was tired of losing to England, as had happened in the previous three series.

"The media like to build up that we have history," Clarke told cricket.com.au. "The only history I have is that England kept beating us, and he was a part of England and I was a part of Australia."

Johnson shocked England with his pace and aggression // Getty
Johnson shocked England with his pace and aggression // Getty

But there could be no denying Australia's tactics in Brisbane. As Waugh had unleashed the raw pace of Brett Lee on India to devastating effect a generation earlier, Clarke followed suit with a tearaway of his own.

He utilised Johnson expertly and the damage was decisive. The left-arm quick took nine wickets across a series of short, vicious spells and was the enforcer behind a massive 381-run win that mentally disintegrated England.

***

It was the build-up to the final wicket in that first Ashes Test that made as many headlines as the victory itself.

At the top of his mark was Johnson. In the cordon was Clarke. And at short leg, tucked infuriatingly under the armpit of Anderson, was Bailey.

Ooooohhhh, Jimmy Jimmy
Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Anderson…

"I've never been a big fan of fielding at short leg," Bailey says. "But I certainly found fielding there watching the batsmen dealing with Mitch Johnson and Ryan Harris and 'Sidds' (Peter Siddle) in that series, that was very, very enjoyable as a cricket fan."

Bailey and Anderson had their tête-à-tête. It was idle threats from five paces. Anderson wandered over and got in the Tasmanian's face, just helmet grilles separating the pair.

He wandered off again, started tending to the pitch with his bat.

"Just purely how well they were bowling, how quick Mitch was bowling, and just the pressure (England) were under, just seeing them try and deal with that week after week," Bailey adds.

"That was just a great spot to be watching from."

Rogers celebrates as Bailey claims a catch // Getty
Rogers celebrates as Bailey claims a catch // Getty

The umpires approached, from square leg and the non-striker's end. They sensed the situation may have been escalating.

So did Clarke.

"Listen," Clarke said to Anderson, authority in his voice.

More words exchanged, this time between the skipper and the Englishman.

"Face up then," Clarke continued, pointing. "Get ready for a broken f----n arm. Face up."

Johnson heard not a word, though he didn't have to; he knew his role in this act.

"We know Jimmy Anderson didn't like short balls, and didn't play a pull shot, so why would you pitch the ball up to him when he can hit a drive?" Johnson reasoned.

It was sound logic.

The left-arm quick had Anderson caught and bowled a short time later, and the match's end was almost anticlimactic in the context of what had just unfolded.

***

Clarke was fined by the ICC and asked by journalists post-match to explain his role in the incident, but truth be told he left the Gabba with a new aura surrounding his captaincy. In the space of seven words, the one-time wonder kid had become a hardened leader.

He bristles, however, at the thought of such vitriol working in his favour in the fight to win public approval, or even affection.

"I think it's an insult if that's why (public perception) changed," he said. "I understand and respect that some people might have thought, 'We didn't know Michael had that aggression or anger in him'.

Face up: Clarke's blunt message to Anderson // Getty
Face up: Clarke's blunt message to Anderson // Getty

"(But) if people like me more because I said that to James Anderson, then I think that's very silly. I think they should judge me on my individual performances as a player, and as a captain judge me on my leadership.

"OK maybe I hadn't (previously) said exactly what I'd said to James Anderson, but I'd stuck up for my players on a number of occasions, and it hadn't been heard on the stump mic, so nobody's ever spoken about it."

***

Regrets? Clarke has a few.

"I regret that language I used, and I regret the fact I said it over the stump mic – the last thing I want is boys and girls watching to be going and playing club cricket and saying things like that to opposition players," he said.

"I think that's unacceptable that the Australian cricket captain is setting that example."

There are elements however, he'd do again. In a heartbeat.

"I don't regret standing up for George Bailey, one bit," he said. "I don't regret being extremely honest with James Anderson and telling him what Mitchell Johnson's plan was.

Johnson and Bailey celebrate the first Test victory // Getty
Johnson and Bailey celebrate the first Test victory // Getty

"I don't regret that, I just regret how everybody heard it and the language I used."

Anderson, for his part, said he'd heard "a lot worse" and called for a "common sense" approach to any on-field flare ups this summer.

"That Michael Clarke thing didn’t have any ¬≠effect on me. I’ve had a lot worse on a cricket field, but it was the fact that it was picked up on a stump mic that was the problem," Anderson said recently.

Perhaps Clarke is right to regret the way the incident became tabloid fodder, and his words a phrase repeated nationwide with something approaching triumphalism throughout that golden Australian summer.

On the flipside, had the line never been beamed into our living rooms, Clarke's legacy may have ultimately been a misrepresentation of the man himself.

Feted for his tactical nous, and as such more closely affiliated with Mark Taylor than any of his other recent predecessors, Clarke – like Taylor – did possess a hard edge, a fact hardly surprising given the Waugh influence on his generation of Australian cricketers.

Mitch Johnson's Gabba thunderbolts

Perhaps then it's better to view the 47-Test captain (24 wins) through the perspective he would prefer us to.

"Judge me on 'Are we winning games of cricket?'," Clarke said. "Am I getting the best out of my teammates? And are we going forward as a team?

"Because if we're not, it doesn't matter what I say to an individual player, I'm not the right guy to captain."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21