Peirson's slow rise from fill-in to joining the 'big dogs'

While his inclusion in the Test squad is the first international call-up of his professional career, the Queensland gloveman had a taste of an Ashes tour a decade ago

While his inclusion in Australia's Test squad marks his first international call-up in a professional career that began a decade ago, Jimmy Peirson can lay claim to having first-hand experience of an Ashes 'contest' in the UK dating back just as long.

Peirson's first taste of the top-flight came when he was still a 20-year-old rookie yet to even play for Queensland in a two-day intra-squad match at the picturesque Arundel Castle ground in Sussex that was essentially the opening encounter of Australia's 2013 Ashes campaign.

Although the squad in question was deemed 'Australia A' given the ODI Champions Trophy was being held concurrently in England, the calibre of players Peirson was suddenly sharing a dressing room with meant the clash lingered long in the young wicketkeeper's memory.

And not just because Peirson, who was spending the Australian winter playing league cricket in England's southeast for Bexley CC, likes to remind Usman Khawaja that, as he recalls, the match was the first time his Bulls skipper actually spoke to him.

"I give him stick about that all the time," a laughing Peirson told on Friday. "He was my state captain at the time, I was a rookie so he was too big dog for me back then. It took for me to be on one of those tours for him to talk to me."

Image Id: 001B247BBC3A4F70A7EA675768324BED Image Caption: Peirson in the nets with Khawaja during the 2013 Ashes tour // Supplied

Khawaja, then in the infancy of his international career, was not the only Australian to leave his mark on Peirson.

Two future Test captains in Pat Cummins, on the comeback trail from one of his many early-career injuries, and Steve Smith, who gave a glimpse of his Test dominance to come with a quick-fire day-one ton, stood out, while he also made some acrobatic takes off the bowling of Test quicks Ryan Harris and James Pattinson.

In charge of that 'A' squad and the man who had asked him to fill in behind the stumps for the match was also Peirson's state coach, Darren Lehmann, who within weeks would be installed into the Australian job following Mickey Arthur's shock sacking on the eve of the Test series.

Peirson remembers being impressed by the fizzing spin of a teenaged Ashton Agar, who was also only weeks away from an even more remarkable Test entrance, while he roomed with another future Ashes star in Travis Head.

Image Id: 60145F71D371475A878BEFE55890830F Image Caption: Peirson keeps against Ryan Harris while Travis Head bats during an intra-squad match before the 2013 Ashes // Supplied

"It was an Ashes year so it was a great holiday, not so much a proper cricket trip when you're that age," said Peirson, whose playing experience in the UK remains limited to that solitary season in the Kent league for Bexley. 

"It was awesome, I got to come in and keep for an intra-squad game – Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Steve Smith coming into the peak of his powers, Pat Cummins, Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke.

"Rubbing shoulders with some of my idols. It was pretty cool as a 20-year-old to be doing that and it certainly gives you a taste of that next level, what it takes and how much you want to be a part of it. It was pretty cool."

Ten years on and Peirson has become a 'big dog' in his own right.

Even if his rise to the status of 'back-up Test keeper' may only be temporary while Josh Inglis returns home after the first Ashes Test for the birth of his first child, the 30-year-old is slowly getting used to the title.

First given notice by selection chief George Bailey around a month ago that he may be required in the UK, Peirson was then told that he would be Alex Carey's deputy for Lord's Test and possibly beyond depending on when Inglis returns.

It has meant, a short holiday to Stradbroke Island with his wife Amy and daughter Evie aside, Peirson has spent what would regularly be his post-summer break period fine-tuning his skills and training with the Test squad in Brisbane before their departure of the UK this week.

He had also been angling for a stint with any of the 18 UK counties to play domestic cricket before his Ashes call-up and remains eager to feature after his involvement with the national squad ends likely towards the end of June.

For now, Peirson is firmly focused on the prospect of fulfilling a lifelong desire to represent his country.

"What I'm doing day in, day out with training now is preparing (to face) Stuart Broad and James Anderson. It's a bit weird to say it but as it gets closer, you go, 'maybe this could happen'," he said.

"For me it's a bonus. If I were to get a game, if situations were to fall that way, it'd be a great story, a great opportunity, and simply a bonus.

"With keepers it can be weird how it works sometimes.

"As it stands, I'm going over to help the team get ready, do as much as I can in that space and make sure 'Kez' (first-choice Test keeper Alex Carey) is ready to play. In the background once that's ticked off, I'll make sure my skills are ready as well."

Few have doubted Peirson's skills behind the stumps since he inherited the gloves from legendary Bulls gloveman Chris Hartley as a 24-year-old back in 2017, but it has been his improvement with the bat that has seen him become a genuine contender to take the next step beyond domestic level.

'I don't think he even saw the ball!' Keeper's insane catch


The right-hander credits the purchase of a bowling machine and a renewed focus on extra training time away from state duties as the main factors behind his batting average of 42 including six centuries in 30 first-class matches since the start of the 2020-21 summer.

In his first 30 first-class games, he had averaged under 30 and never scored a ton.

Yet a high standard of glovework remains the priority of a keeper who counts former Australia captain Tim Paine and England's Ben Foakes as the modern-day players he aspires to become most like.

Peirson blasts crucial Shield ton to lead Bulls fightback


Having first got a taste of the secrets of the Dukes ball during that stint in southern England in 2013, Peirson now has an even better understanding of the techniques required to give himself the best chance of catching the British-made ball renowned for moving in the air after passing the batter.

A four-season Sheffield Shield trial with the Dukes (albeit a version that differs slightly to the one used in England) has helped to demystify it, as did his selection on the recent Australia A tour to New Zealand where the UK Test-version of the ball was used.

That was partially offset by having the misfortune of catching Covid mid-tour and discovering NZ, unlike Australia, still enforces seven-day isolation requirements for those infected with the virus, thereby ruling Peirson out of the second four-day match in Lincoln.

"It's an extreme cricket ball and it seams and swings a lot more than the Kookaburra," said Peirson, who will fly out for the UK on June 20.

'Like doing funky stuff': Peirson on keeping up to 137kph


"In terms of keeping at Lord's with the slope and places like that, it's traditionally quite hard with the after-bounce swing.

"In my mind I know what that looks like – it's about standing a bit closer, a bit more 'reaction-style' catching, it's not as pretty as it can be in Australia, you don't have as much time to move your feet.

"I'm thinking about being a little more ugly … you're standing closer and you're a bit more rushed.

"I'm adding those final elements to my keeping game and making sure if an opportunity comes up, I'm ready to go, it's not something that surprises me on the morning of a Test."

2023 Qantas Ashes Tour of the UK

First Test: Friday June 16-Tuesday June 20, Edgbaston

Second Test: Wednesday June 28-Sunday July 2, Lord’s

Third Test: Thursday July 6-Monday July 10, Headingley

Fourth Test: Wednesday July 19-Sunday July 23, Old Trafford

Fifth Test: Thursday July 27-Monday 31, The Oval