Don't look now England, but Australia might have found the new McGrath
Peter George took his first Test wicket yesterday – Sachin Tendulkar on 214. Andrew Strauss beware
Wednesday 13 October 2010
Tall, thin, married. Three words Peter George chose to describe himself in a profile. Now add "elated". The 23-year-old beanpole, who modelled himself on bowling giant Glenn McGrath, claimed the wicket of batting giant Sachin Tendulkar yesterday as his first Test scalp.
The youngster has rarely played in front of more than 5,000 people yet managed to silence a raucous crowd of 25,000 inside the M Chinnaswamy Stadium here yesterday. They had cheered Tendulkar's first run and grew louder with each of the next 213.
Having negotiated 362 deliveries in the heat and hysteria, Tendulkar misread the inswing out of George's hand, flayed wide, caught an inside edge, and the stumps were rattled. You could have heard the drop of a pin, even one as thin as "Two-Metre Peter".
Not only had he dispatched the game's greatest run-scorer, George's wicket sparked an incredible Indian batting collapse of 9 for 5 that hauled Australia back into the contest. The tourists then batted their way to 202 for 7 in their second innings by the close yesterday.
"To get Sachin out was a great shock, I was just elated," George said afterwards. "There was a bit of relief from the guys, to finally see the back of Sachin after such a long day and a lot of hard work. I definitely wasn't giving up hope, it just came down to patience I think, we had to keep plugging away with the plans we had, just keep trusting in those."
The 6ft 8in right-arm seamer is the latest in a growing number of tall bowlers currently plying their trade in the international game. He was described before his debut as "McGrath with an outswinger" – a comparison with England's tormenter-in-chief for over a decade that is bound to persist and also send a shiver down Andrew Strauss's spine with the Ashes looming.
"To be compared to Glenn McGrath is a great honour for me," George said. "If my bowling action is similar to him it's probably because I always watched him as a child; I think kids generally resemble their favourite cricketers in the way they bat or bowl. Obviously there is a fair bit of McGrath in my action."
George, the 10th bowler to claim Tendulkar as his maiden Test wicket, struggled on his first day (15 overs for 38 runs and a few strays) and even drew criticism from home, with the former Test spinner Stuart MacGill questioning his inclusion.
"I have a massive, massive issue with the way the Australian cricket team is being picked at the moment," MacGill said."I am all about giving these young bowlers a chance. In my opinion, picking Peter George in India on a pitch like that is not giving him a chance. He's going to come back from Australia against England, having played one Test and getting belted, which is not good for his confidence."
But George injected the ultimate confidence-booster into his system yesterday, and then added Zaheer Khan as his second wicket to finish with 2 for 48 from 21 overs, making him the team's most economical bowler. A fine start in any book.
"Over each day we've been in the field I've felt a lot more comfortable," George said. "That first day was a bit of a nervous start, today there was a little bit more swing in the air, it made me feel more a part of the game. The crowd was something I've never experienced before, to be out there when Sachin brought up his 14,000th Test run was an unbelievable experience. To have all those screaming Indian fans going nuts for Sachin was quite deafening out in the middle, something I will always remember."
The crowd will also remember him, not only for his dismissal of their icon, but for two bizarre bouncers that travelled down the pitch slower than a Bangalore traffic jam. Tendulkar looked to avoid and then tapped the first gently, smiling in surprise, while Indian captain MS Dhoni firstly went to leave, then wildly swung at the second unsuccessfully.
Australia's captain Ricky Ponting said George's commitment off the field helped his drive on it. "He is a lot more settled than some of the younger blokes, I guess it probably does help to a certain degree, I know the day I got married things changed as well," Ponting said. "It certainly can help to have your life away from cricket in good order."
The last time England visited Australia, George watched the great escape of 2006 on the Adelaide Oval hill. Although he will likely remain behind Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger when the Ashes series begins next month, George is now vying for a spot in the XI and, already, his résumé contains the World's Most Wanted. It fits nicely under the other three words.
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