Leg-spinner Mason Crane is ready to make his England Test debut if given the opportunity in the Boxing Day Test.
With Australia having already sealed the Ashes, Crane could earn his first cap in Melbourne in place of pace bowler Craig Overton, who is a doubt with a hairline fracture of the rib.
“I’ll be preparing as if I’m going to play,” BBC quoted Crane as saying.
“I’m excited. A lot of hard work has gone into it. Hopefully it can be the start of a long journey.”
In Overton’s absence, England could change the balance of their attack, going down to three frontline seamers and Crane, especially with all-rounder Moeen Ali struggling with his off-breaks so far in the series.
“I’ve not heard anything about if I’ll play,” said Hampshire’s Crane, who admitted that the prospect of making a debut had “absolutely” crossed his mind.
“I have to get my head around it,” he added.
Who is Mason Crane?
At 20 years and 311 days, Crane would become the youngest specialist spinner to make his debut for England in 90 years if he plays on Tuesday.
Born in Sussex, he failed to progress through the county’s junior system and was sent to Hampshire by their former spinner Raj Maru, a teacher at his school.
Crane made his Hampshire debut in 2015 as an 18-year-old – his first wicket was Kumar Sangakkara – and has since played 29 first-class matches.
Last winter, he played grade cricket for Sydney club Gordon. His 45 wickets not only earned him a share of the O’Reilly Medal for the best player in the competition, but also a call-up to the New South Wales team, the first overseas player to represent the state since Pakistan great Imran Khan in 1984-85.
“As a young player it was one of the best things I could do,” said Crane.
“I was away from home for six months on my own. I had to learn all sorts of stuff.
“It’s brilliant to play with different players. I’d encourage any young player to come out.”
Crane made his England T20 debut against South Africa, going wicketless on his home ground of Southampton.
In the next match in Cardiff, he was hit for 16 runs in three balls by AB de Villiers before having the Proteas captain caught on the square leg boundary.
“De Villiers had a pop, hit a few away, and you’re standing there not sure where to go,” said Crane.
“Jos Buttler, the captain, came up and I ask him ‘where do I bowl?’ He said ‘I dunno!’ I felt under pressure there, but I came through it, and that’s an experience I can use.”
Crane has sat out the first three Tests of the Ashes series as Australia have gone 3-0 up to regain the urn.
However, he has still experienced the atmosphere as 12th man.
“The verbals going on in this series, I’ve never seen the like before,” said Crane. “It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just very different.
“Walking around the boundary is tough. If a bowler wants a drink on the far side of the ground, we’re drawing straws.
“I’m not sure much of what is said can be repeated, it’s not for families. You just laugh it off.”