The Ashes 2009 June 15, 2009

Dad-to-be McDonald ready for busy times

Andrew McDonald could borrow a line from his fellow Victorian Bill Lawry to describe the hectic nature of his life at the moment. It's all happening for McDonald, who flies out on Monday night for his first Ashes series. The only down-side is he will soon be more than 15,000 kilometres from his pregnant wife Keely, who is staying home in Melbourne.

"She's a few months pregnant," McDonald said. "It's not ideal timing to go away while she's pregnant but it's exciting times ... she's fully supportive of what I'm doing. It's a great partnership that we've got. She's not too dissatisfied. She'll probably get a bit of time on her own, she's probably sick of me now, I've been home for a couple of weeks."

It has barely been that long. As part of the Delhi Daredevils squad he was in South Africa until the closing stages of the IPL in late May and his trip to England was brought forward after Australia's early exit from the ICC World Twenty20. McDonald is one of six Test specialists being flown in and he expects the rest of the group to be already focused on the Ashes.

"I don't think it's a good time any time you go out of a tournament such as the Twenty20 World Cup," he said. "The negative is we got knocked out, the positive is we've got a little bit more time to prepare for the Ashes. Hopefully it does hold us in good stead."

Having sat on the sidelines for most of the IPL - he played only one game - McDonald has had plenty of time to turn his mind to England. It's hard to believe how far he has come in the past four years. While England gave Australia their first Ashes tremors with the nail-biting victory at Edgbaston in 2005, McDonald was turning out for Lowerhouse in the Lancashire League.

At the time, he seemed an unlikely candidate for the next Ashes tour but he now finds himself as the incumbent allrounder. He has played Australia's past four Tests, yet he knows there is every chance he could slip out of the mix for the first Test in Cardiff.

"I played the last Test but Shane [Watson] was obviously unavailable for that," he said. "There's a couple of tour games leading in, I think they'll tell a story. There's a lot of speculation. Pete Siddle had a fantastic tour of South Africa as well. Brett Lee is a fantastic performer with 300-odd Test wickets. There's a few vying for that spot. And Ben Hilfenhaus, who knows what the English conditions will hold for him."

At least this time McDonald knows he has made the squad based on his merits and not on the unavailability of men like Watson and Andrew Symonds. He is quietly confident but concedes he has never until now been the focus of media attention - like the Sun photoshopping him into Ronald McDonald - and it's not surprising that he took a few matches to look comfortable in the Test setup.

During his debut at the SCG his helmet cannoned over the top of the stumps when he ducked into a Morne Morkel bouncer but he showed glimpses of his value with two key second-innings wickets that helped Australia to a tight victory. His importance increased on the tour of South Africa and by his fourth Test he had the self-assurance to play his strokes on the way to his first Test half-century.

"Any level where you step up a level, whether it be from club cricket into first-class or first-class to the Test arena, every game you play you grow a little bit in confidence," McDonald said. "You see it in all sports, the more games you play you seem to get a little bit more confidence, you start believing in yourself a bit more. I'm no different."

Now he can only hope that development is rewarded with selection in Cardiff. One way or another the next few months will be exciting for the McDonald family.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo