George hopes to build on nervous start
Two other Australian cricketers have dismissed Sachin Tendulkar in their debut Test. One, Cameron White, will probably not play Test cricket again. The second, Peter Siddle, has to start from scratch, after a back injury that's kept him out for nearly a year and forced him to remodel his action. Peter George, as awkward as the ugly duckling when first thrown the ball, will hope that he has better luck after showing signs that he has a big role to play in Australian cricket's future.
After the skittish start, the coltish-looking George finished with an impressive return of 2 for 48 from 21 overs. It's unlikely that George will be waxing eloquent to his grandchildren about the wicket of Zaheer Khan, but it'll be hard to stop him talking about the first scalp: a swinging delivery that induced an inside edge from a bat that had appeared to be a feet few wide until then.
"I definitely wasn't giving up hope," he said after the day's play. "It just came down to patience. We had to keep plugging away and trusting in the plans we had. To get Sachin was just great ... a shock. I was elated." When asked how his team-mates had responded, he grinned. "Most of it was just 'congratulations' and 'well done'. Just relief from most of the guys to see the back of Sachin after a lot of hard work."
After just 19 first-class games, he admitted that it had taken him a while to find his Test-match feet. "I've felt a lot more comfortable each day," he said. "I had a bit of a nervous start. Today, there was a bit of swing in the air and it made me feel more a part of the game.
"My first over the day before was especially nervous. I hadn't really experienced something like that. I definitely calmed down [during] my next spell back. This morning, I felt comfortable. I could run in and do my own thing, without worrying too much about trying too hard."
A raucous crowd was part of the learning experience and for a young man asked to bowl his first over to Sehwag, it was nearly too much. "The crowd was something I've never experienced," he said. "When Sachin brought up his 14,000th Test run, it was an unbelievable experience ... all those screaming Indian fans going nuts. It was quite deafening to be out in the middle and it's something I'll always remember. To make my Test debut in front of such a crowd is special for me."
He was responsible for a couple of humorous moments too, with the super-slow bouncer that had both batsmen and team-mates staring in disbelief. "I told a few of the boys about that the night before [the game] and they looked at me like: 'what's he talking about?'" he said a smile. "So I bowled it and went: 'there you go'. On a wicket like that, without too much bounce, I thought it was an opportunity to try it and see what happens."
Australia were on the rack on Monday morning, with the Indians leading by eight runs and five wickets still to take. Tendulkar's wicket changed the game completely, with the tail offering next to no resistance. But with the pitch now playing tricks and Australia poised to set a target of 200 or more, George was confident that a series-levelling win wasn't beyond his team.
"It looks like the wicket is getting harder to bat on. We'll try and make as many as we can in the morning and we'll be confident of defending that.
"We learnt a lot from the last game and how we played. We did a lot of things right. A narrow defeat like that can be a learning experience, and hopefully we can turn it around this game."
Had he been a more seasoned pro or more of an extrovert, he would probably have scoffed at the suggestion that he might be the next Glenn McGrath. But as it was, the question just prompted another half-smile and a soft-spoken answer. "To be compared to McGrath is a great honour for me," he said. "If my bowling action's similar, it's because I watched him as a child, growing up. Kids generally resemble their favourite cricketers in the way they bat or bowl, so there's a fair bit of McGrath in my action. If I do half as well as he did in his career, I'll be a very happy man."
McGrath finished with 3 for 142 in his debut Test, and no one marked his card for greatness. It would be sensible not to judge George on the basis of this one performance, but after coming through when his team needed him most, he'll certainly feel less of an outsider, going into a final day when Australia has the chance to pull off one of its greatest-ever victories.