First-timer Beer prepares for SCG debut
Michael Beer walked into the SCG for the first time today and while he liked what he saw, he thought "it looked different on TV". Everything is new to Beer, the left-arm spinner, who only played his maiden first-class game for Western Australia at the start of the summer.
On Monday he is expected to be handed a baggy green three weeks after he was the latest slow bowler to be parachuted into Australia's Test squad. Beer, 26, was hoping for a debut at the WACA, his adopted home ground after an off-season move from Victoria, but was overlooked when Ricky Ponting decided on four fast men. The same thing happened at the MCG, but this week looks like his time.
It has been a hard wait. When Ponting walked towards him shortly before the toss in Perth, Beer thought he was about to get a new cap. His family had flown in for the occasion and he was ready, but Ponting delivered bad news and he headed to Tasmania for a Sheffield Shield game instead. "At the time I was a little disappointed but I've really enjoyed being a part of the group," he said.
Beer has played only seven first-class games so not much is known about him. Michael Hussey has faced him in the nets and likes his approach and level-headedness. "He's got very good control, very disciplined," he said. "He gets good revs on the ball as well, and uses drift very well."
However, Hussey warned about expecting too much from Beer too soon. "It's going to take time to feel comfortable around the team and comfortable around Test match level," he said. "It's important that he relaxes, goes out there and tries to enjoy the opportunity. I remember in my first Test I was pretty much an emotional wreck, so I hope we don't put too much pressure on him."
If Beer plays, he will work alongside Steven Smith, who bowls legspin and bats No.6, but the surprise is that Nathan Hauritz hasn't been included at his home ground. While Beer will have to ask the New South Wales players in the squad for advice on the conditions, Hauritz could have just turned up and bowled.
Hauritz has worked hard since being dropped before the series, taking 19 Shield wickets at 26.78 for the season, and scoring two centuries. His absence is puzzling to Australian supporters and the England team.
"I honestly don't understand how the Australian selection works," England's offspinner Graeme Swann said. Swann said he felt a kinship with his fellow offspinner, and remembered that Hauritz had caused them some problems in three Tests in 2009.
"I generally feel sorry for him," he said. "I don't think he deserved to miss out on this whole series. I don't understand why he has not been given a shout, but that is good for us." In this Test, England will be going for Beer instead.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo