Australia's newest allrounder Andrew McDonald was organising a new-year surfing holiday when he got a phone-call that immediately changed his plans. It was Cricket Australia's general manager of cricket operations, Michael Brown, telling McDonald to get ready for a trip to Sydney, where he was in the 12-man squad for the third Test.
Injuries to Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson opened the door for a new allrounder to be trialled and McDonald, who has been a consistent contributor for Victoria over the past two seasons, was the beneficiary. McDonald was in Geelong preparing for a relaxing few days with his wife and friends when the call-up came.
"I'd just got out of bed and was shocked and over the moon. I'm really excited about the prospect of being able to play for Australia," McDonald said. "A few of my mates were organising some new year's plans. We weren't sure what we were doing yet, but I've had to tell them they're on hold now. They said, 'You selfish so and so'. No, they didn't really. They're rapt. It's fantastic."
A tall man at 194 centimetres, McDonald is a medium-fast bowler who extracts surprising bounce and can nip the ball around in the air and off the seam. A versatile player who often bats at No. 6 for his state, McDonald has made four half-centuries and averages 46.28 this season.
"I feel confident in my ability," McDonald said. "Obviously to have been performing for Victoria I think we are probably the benchmark of the domestic competition at the moment and I think that is going to hold me in good stead.
"I have held down the No. 5/6 spot when Cameron [White] has been away for Victoria so I have batted in the top five and six in shield cricket. I think that is going to hold me in good stead if I do get the No. 6 spot for Australia, or wherever that position may arise."
A red-head whose hair and surname have earned him the nickname Ronnie, McDonald averaged 49.54 with the bat last season and 57.69 the summer before. He has 15 wickets at 23.93 this Sheffield Shield campaign and although he has not been told he will be in the starting XI for Sydney, the balance of the squad means he must be a certainty.
The fast bowlers Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger will vie for the remaining spot, which became available due to Brett Lee's foot injury, and Bollinger is the favourite to debut on his home ground. A left-arm fast man who went on the tours of the West Indies and India this year, Bollinger has five five-wicket hauls at the SCG in the past 13 months.
"The SCG is a pretty good place to bowl," Bollinger told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I like to bowl as straight as I can and swing the ball as much as I can because it goes Irish quite a bit. You've got to bash the wicket at the SCG, it's not the quickest of wickets but I enjoy bowling there."