Beer builds his spin vocabulary
Quietly and unobtrusively, Michael Beer has bolstered his knowledge of spin bowling on the subcontinent across his first three days of cricket in Sri Lanka. Beer is a man of few words, but his left-arm orthodox vocabulary was handily expanded in the drawn tour game against Sri Lanka Board XI.
While his counterpart Nathan Lyon also had his moments, not least on the final day when Thilan Samaraweera was lured into giving his wicket away in a flurry of aggressive strokes, Beer's ability to keep the batsmen quiet and draw variable degrees of turn and bounce from the P Sara Oval pitch will have heartened the tour selectors more than his figures of 2 for 42 and 0 for 39 might suggest.
Australia's plans around spin bowling have been generally less imaginative without the genius of Shane Warne, and Beer's ability to bowl reliably - plus his greater amount of time in the Australian team dressing room - lends itself to selection for the first Test in Galle.
"It was good, I enjoyed it. The first day was a bit hot but I enjoyed being out in my first real experience of subcontinental conditions," Beer said. "I think the way the game was played I think everyone in the team benefited, especially myself bowling on day one and day three.
"It was a trial to different batsmen, the way they play, they train differently to us from a young age, and that is definitely something. Also just try a few things in different conditions. It's totally different to the WACA but it's something where you vary your pace, you see what works and you go from there.
"I feel more settled. I feel part of the group. I've wanted to help Trent [Copeland] and Nathan as they've come in, it's the sort of group where it's very easy to settle into, they're great guys and good fun to be around."
In each innings Beer began a little sluggishly before growing into his work, spinning the ball more as his fingers warmed to the task and gaining the occasional instance of bite out of the footmarks. Since learning of his selection for the tour, Beer has sought as much advice as possible while also running his eyes over plenty of footage of the Sri Lankan batsmen, and of matches played in Galle, Kandy and Colombo.
"We've done a lot of homework on their big players and all the way through to some of the blokes who played here that might play during the Test match," Beer said. "We'll do a lot of research and just back ourselves, back what we've been working on and hopefully do our job. I've definitely tried to speak to as many people as possible back home, and I've watched a lot of footage of games here, I've used that for research."
Beer and Lyon have taken similarly hard-working paths to the Test squad, playing plenty of lower grade cricket before being recognised at a higher level. They first met at an off-season spin summit and have similarly laconic gaits.
"A couple of years ago we were both at the spin camp together," Beer said. "I just got contracted and I knew SA were talking to him, we were both in a similar situation, both came from different sorts of surroundings, playing lower cricket and working our way up. I definitely respect that and saw him play his first Shield game at the WACA and he bowled really well in that. He's a great bowler and got a lot to offer."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo