Grange pals recall George Bailey’s city days

George Bailey

George Bailey

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Just as George Bailey was preparing to play one day international cricket for Australia against England this summer, an echo of his time in Edinburgh as professional at the Grange club could be heard.

For the 31-year-old batsman, who has been drafted in for a Test debut when the latest Ashes series gets underway in Brisbane next week, made more than just on-field contributions to the club which employed him as professional in both 2007 and 2010.

Former club captain Stuart Davidson recalls: “The first thing to say is that George is the most talented batsman I’ve seen playing club cricket in Scotland because he just made it look so easy.

“For a fairly smallish guy George timed his shots so well and this year he has carried that ability to the international stage.

“Apart from that George took a full part in the life of the Grange club even co-writing along with (Scotland all-rounder) Gregor Maiden the club song.”

Grange are nicknamed The Stags and Davidson added: “The song begins ‘We are rutting, we strutting, we are stags’ . . . and it ends ‘if you come to Portgower Place you’ll get an anthem in your face’. . .

“That was what we sang in late August immediately after we’d won the Scottish Cup!”

Judge for yourself from those lyrics whether it was perhaps best that Bailey pursued a sporting rather than song-writing career although according to Davidson he could also have been a quality tennis player.

“When George came to us it was as a cricket pro who not only did his bit out in the middle but also took responsibility for coaching youngsters some of whom are now progressing into our top team and beyond.

“However, in his schooldays he was a champion tennis player and proved it by picking up a racquet and getting through to the final of the Grange Championship where he defeated a South African opponent in straight sets!

“What struck us, too, was that George played tennis left handed even though he is a right handed batsman!”

Although when Bailey returned to Britain at the start of this season it was to join Hampshire he maintained Edinburgh connections.

Davidson said: “During a few days off George travelled north to have dinner with a few of his former team-mates and, of course, he was part of the Australian one-day side that faced Scotland at the Grange in September.

“George might have been on international duty but he was quick to ask about the progress of lads he had coached and he had lost none of his approachability.

“For example, it happened to be my own son who had missed out on Michael Clarke’s autograph but George not only saw to it the omission was rectified but took Ben into the Australian team dressing-room for introductions all round as he would have done to assist any cricket-mad youngster.

“At Grange we were so fortunate. Through connections with Tasmanian cricket stretching back to an earlier player from that area, Andrew Dykes, we were able to scout George as our professional when he was being tipped as the next big thing out of Australian cricket.”

Davidson, who also played minor counties cricket for his native Cumbria as well as Scotland where he has lived for many years, added: “I can’t hope that George helps win the Ashes for Australia but I do hope he tops the batting averages on both sides!”

Former Grange president Bobby Frazer has equally fond memories of Bailey’s time at the club. “An innings of George’s that stands out was at Heriot’s in a match played on a difficult wicket.

“No player on either side could get runs that day except George who showed his class by hitting 80 including a succession of sixes to either side of the ground that had everybody around the boundary enthralled.”

Scotland’s decision to tap into Bailey’s abilities so that he turned out as the official overseas pro for matches against English counties meant 
Dewald Nel became both an adversary at league level and a colleague in the representative dressing-room.

What was it like to have to bowl to the man who would become only the second ever Australian to captain his country on his international debut (at Twenty20) following on from the skipper of the country’s inaugural side back in the 1800s?

Nel, ex-Watsonians and Heriot’s, said: “To begin with I found George a bit unorthodox in his shot-making.

“What was particularly obvious, though, was George’s ability to back himself to score runs in any situation.

“Don’t get me wrong, George could hold a bat alright and in the Scotland dressing-room he was always willing to share tips and chat about anything cricket.

“But I was really impressed by how he found a way that worked when it came to scoring runs including when he hit 76 off 42 balls in only his second match for Scotland, against Leicestershire.

“That really got him noticed by the English pros and his latest selection is going to make the upcoming Ashes series even more interesting for everyone associated with Scottish cricket.”