Centurion - His rapid rise to Australia's Test squad was "a bit of a blur," teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins said on Monday, but now he's set on winning a place in the team and playing alongside some of his childhood heroes.
The 18-year-old Cummins was picked in Australia's 15-man squad for two Tests in South Africa next month, having only made his international debut in the drawn Twenty20 series between the countries last week.
Cummins has played just three first-class matches for New South Wales in Australia's domestic competition, and was barely two when Ricky Ponting played his first Test. But the young quickie could now be thrown into one of the most fiercely contested series' in Test cricket - alongside some of those players he watched and idolised as a kid.
"It's all been a bit of a blur," Cummins said as Australia prepared first for the start of the three-match one-day series in Centurion, near Pretoria on Wednesday - when he's tipped to also make his ODI debut. "To come here and play with a lot of the Aussie guys, it's all been a bit surreal.
"I've grown up watching a lot of them and I guess it's been a great experience so far. Hopefully it continues."
Cummins put together a string of impressive performances for New South Wales in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament in India, and picked up three wickets on debut in Australia's win in the first T20 international in Cape Town last week.
Highly rated, and with Australia hoping he can help fill the large hole left by great fast bowler Glenn McGrath who retired in 2007, Cummins was rewarded for his promise earlier Monday with a Test call.
"I was surprised," Cummins said at Centurion's SuperSport Park. "I was over the moon to get a Twenty20 gig and then going into the one-day series. To get the Test series ... the Baggy Green (cap) for Australia is one of the most coveted things in sport in Australia and to be a part of the Test series, to be part of it over here is a big deal."
Cummins has already been praised by senior team-mates for his ability to keep calm under pressure - perhaps the biggest testament to his great potential.
"He's pretty good, isn't he?" Australia T20 captain Cameron White said after Cummins took three wickets in an over in the first T20. "For an 18-year-old kid to come in like a seasoned pro almost and executing skills under the biggest pressure in his career, that's pretty impressive. It's pretty exciting for the team and for Australian cricket."
Opening batsman and Australia vice-captain Shane Watson added: "I'm very impressed with Pat. He's a very impressive fellow and very switched on. It will never go to his head because he knows deep down that he's got a pretty special gift."
Cummins told reporters at Centurion that Australia's last home series against South Africa, a thrilling three-Test battle at the end of 2008, was the best series he's watched.
Three years later, and only just out of school, he's tipped to play a part in the latest meeting of the two old rivals.
"You can definitely feel the rivalry when you're out there fielding," he said of his two games so far in South Africa. "The crowd is very vocal. It's all in good spirits but you know you're out there for a contest."
The top-ranked ODI side, Australia, play South Africa in one-day internationals in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Durban, before the two-Test series begins on November 9.
The Australian Test squad for the series against South Africa:
Michael Clarke (c) - NSW - 30 years
Shane Watson (vc) - NSW - 30
Michael Beer - WA - 27
Trent Copeland - NSW - 25
Patrick Cummins - NSW - 18
Brad Haddin - NSW - 33
Ryan Harris - QLD - 32
Phil Hughes - NSW - 22
Mike Hussey - WA - 36
Mitchell Johnson - WA - 29
Usman Khawaja - NSW - 24
Nathan Lyon - SA - 23
Shaun Marsh - WA - 28
Ricky Ponting - TAS - 36
Peter Siddle - VIC - 26