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Bailey backs Rainbird for big honours

By Chris Pike
18 February 2014 03:50PM EST

TASMANIAN captain George Bailey knows his state's batsmen need to find ways to score bigger runs but he has no concerns over the Tigers bowling attack led by Ben Hilfenhaus.

Tasmania all but fell out of the race for the Sheffield Shield final this season with a narrow four-wicket loss to Western Australia last week at the WACA Ground with the Tigers now sitting 14 points behind leaders New South Wales and South Australia with three games remaining.

Bailey returned for the Tigers in the clash in Perth and was the best-performing batsman top-scoring with 83 in the second innings, but overall Tasmania's totals of 248 and 286 set them up to try and defend 256 on the final day which they just fell short of doing.

Overall, Bailey knows that the Tasmanian batsmen need to start scoring more runs but he couldn’t be happier with the bowling attack.

Hilfenhaus has nothing left to prove with 99 Test wickets under his belt for Australia, but he again led the Tigers in Perth with figures of 6-82 and 1-44 to now give him 12 Shield wickets this season at an average of 38.

Spinner Xavier Doherty also worked hard for 2-31 and 1-67 while all-rounder Luke Butterworth contributed 1-65 and 0-21, but it's the emerging bowlers that are even more impressive.

Andrew Fekete had match figures of 3-109 to now have 13 wickets at 35 this season, but it is left-arm quick Rainbird that is quickly emerging as a player with international cricket in his future.

Bowling at good pace, Rainbird showed an ability to also move the ball in the air and off the pitch with the 21-year-old finishing with 0-45 and 2-61 in the match to now have 19 wickets at 29 this season.

"Hilf had an outstanding game, and led from the front with bat and ball. Buttsy was under a bit of an injury could and toiled away nicely, and did a really good job with bat and ball," Bailey said.

"Rainy is one of the most exciting young bowlers in the country. I really like how he has come on. He has nice pace, swings the ball and you can see him learning in the field all the time.

"Certainly the year that we won the Sheffield Shield I don’t think we had won a game before winning our last three, and that gave us good momentum going into that next season. At that stage it was young blokes like Paine, Hilfenhaus and I guess I was even there and Butterworth.

"We will look to continue to get improvement out of our younger guys but I also think that from a batting point of view, for most of the last two seasons we haven’t made enough runs so we have to get back to playing some harder innings. That's something that we will continue to try and build on over the next three games."

Bailey knows that his bowlers could hardly have done more to give Tasmania a chance to win the game in Perth that could have kept hopes of the Shield final alive, but scoring triple-figure runs with the bat needs to happen more often for the Tigers.

"It was a pretty good game of cricket in the end. It ebbed and flowed right throughout the four days and I thought we bowled pretty well right throughout the game," he said.

"Our efforts were outstanding with the ball and one or two things could have gone the other way, and we could have won the game.

"I can't fault our efforts in the field and with the ball, but once again our batting was just disappointing in both innings. We have made a habit of that for a couple of years really so the challenge is for our batting group to get better and better."

While Bailey is confident Tasmania now has the bowling stocks and form to compete with the rest of the country, they simply need more runs.

Bailey knows that openers Ed Cowan (489 runs at 41) and Mark Cosgrove (366 at 31), wicket-keeper batsman Tim Paine (278 at 28), Ben Dunk (456 at 35), Jordan Silk (421 at 35) and Jonathan Wells (156 at 26) can all do better at scoring big runs.

The Tigers have only recorded four centuries this Shield season with two coming from Silk and one each from Cowan and current Test No. 3 Alex Doolan.

Bailey and Cowan did put on a 136-run partnership in 322 deliveries in the second innings in Perth, but couldn’t quite keep it going or score quick enough to put Tasmania on top.

"We put on a partnership but it took us a hell of a long time and it was hard work, so I think WA would be saying they were happy to have stuck at it," Bailey said.

"If you bowled well, you could make it quite hard and slow to score so it was all about trying to build that pressure, and create chances that way in some respects. That's where to WA's credit once they got the breakthrough they upped the ante and could get two or three quick breakthroughs.

"Our challenge as a batting group is to learn to restart the partnerships when we lost a wicket. Hilf and Buttsy's partnership in the first innings flattered us a little bit but we were probably 50 runs short in that innings, and about 100 short in the second."

Tasmania next faces Queensland at Blundstone Arena starting Thursday with Bailey likely to sit out the match due to his hip flexor injury ahead of leading Australia to Bangladesh for the Twenty20 World Cup.

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