Peter George to replace Ryan Harris in Test squad
Peter George's winter at the Academy will be interrupted by a first trip to England after he was picked as Ryan Harris' replacement in Australia's Test squad to face Pakistan. George, who stands out as a 203-cm fast bowler, was a star attraction last month for Australia A and he is now the next in line for a baggy green if the bodies of Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger or Mitchell Johnson falter in the next couple of weeks.
"I'm massively excited," he told Cricinfo shortly before departing from Brisbane. "At this stage it hasn't sunk in, but I'm pumped and ready to go."
To be a late addition for one Test squad might be fortunate, but there is no fluke in making two. At 23, George is a man for Australia's future. He spent three nights with the outfit in New Zealand in March when he was covering for Harris, who has once again provided him an opening after hurting his right knee during the one-day series against England.
A week ago George was returning to the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane to continue working on the outswinger he has been developing with Craig McDermott and Troy Cooley, the bowling coaches. At the time he was hoping, one day, to return to the national squad.
Things have been happening quickly for the Australian team over the past week. First Steve O'Keefe, the fresh left-arm spinner, was called up to replace Nathan Hauritz and now George has benefitted from the injury problems affecting Australia's fast men.
"This should be an exciting few weeks, spending some time with the Test squad," George said. "Hopefully I'll be learning off the guys and if I do get an opportunity in a practice match or a Test, I'll try to do my best."
Australia's only warm-up before the two Tests is against Derbyshire starting on Thursday, so the best chance George has of getting a game is if one of the first-choice men break down. The opening game is at Lord's from July 13 before the contest concludes in Leeds.
George has emerged over the past two seasons with South Australia and gained respect with 36 Sheffield Shield wickets last summer. He has played only 18 first-class games but believes the intensity of the state scene has prepared him for any promotion.
"The level of domestic cricket in Australia is high enough that I feel confident in playing against the best teams in the world and feel like I can still perform as well as I do here," he said. "With the build-up at the Academy and the Australia A games, and doing quite well in those, it has been good preparation."
George earned 11 wickets in two first-class wins over Sri Lanka A last month in a perfectly timed display. Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, has watched George with South Australia and his panel has been impressed. "We are confident he will perform well at international level should he get the opportunity on this tour," Hilditch said.
Harris' injury has also allowed Doug Bollinger to move closer to a first Twenty20 international. Bollinger, who took nine wickets in the ODIs against England, will come into consideration for the matches against Pakistan on Monday and Tuesday in Birmingham.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo