James McCollum was due to make his Test debut against Afghanistan in Dehradun this morning, the climax of a meteoric rise by the 23-year-old Waringstown batsman and a dream come true.

If you had told me four or five years ago, that Id be away with Ireland and have a chance of playing in a Test match, its pretty crazy, said McCollum. But I have been here for three weeks and although I only got one game in the one-dayers, Ive been training nearly every day and had good preparation in Sri Lanka.

It was on the Ireland Wolves tour in January that McCollum got the call-up to the senior squad, following innings of 72 and 76 in the two first-class games against an experienced Sri Lanka A side full of quality spinners, and with a knock of 170 the highest score for the Wolves against Scotland A last summer, it was form the Ireland selectors could not ignore.

McCollum admits he was still surprised to be chosen for the first one-day international against Afghanistan last month.
I felt very privileged and humbled to get my first international cap, he says. It was bittersweet as we came out of the game the wrong end and I got a first-baller, but its a learning experience being out here and Im just trying to take in as much as I can.

Wed a very good tour in Sri Lanka for five weeks, facing good spinners on turning decks, but its a big leap playing against spin by an A team to Afghanistan who, in my opinion, have the best spin attack in the world.
It was one of those world-class bowlers, Mujeeb Zadran, who McCollum had to face for that first delivery as an international.
I knew what I was going to get, I said to myself get forward, its going to skid on, hes bowling with the new ball - and then its one of those things, you havent faced it before. (He went back and was plumb lbw, the 17th top order batsman to get a golden duck on his ODI debut).

I was hoping to face a few balls from him and Rashid (Khan), it wasnt to be but I will be more prepared next time.
McCollum wont have to face Mujeeb over the next few days because he is not in the 16-man Afghanistan squad. He did make his Test debut against India last June but has played only one red-ball game since and other spinners were preferred.

Five of this squad, including McCollum, spent 10 days in Bangalore in December facing a non-stop barrage of spin bowling and McCollum says it should stand them in good stead this weekend.

It could be a spin marathon for 3-4 days, added McCollum. You play on pretty green wickets back home but we learnt so much at the batting camp in Bangalore. You were just facing spin for four hours a day, so that was great taking that into Sri Lanka. The spinners opened the bowling in the red ball games out there as well and if thats what happens in the Test we are all well prepared.

'Four or five years ago', McCollum was playing in the Lurgan team which was relegated from the Premier League, but it was his move to fierce rivals Waringstown that launched his career.

It was a brilliant move for me as I was around a lot of guys whod been there, done it, and was playing in a great team there. I then moved to Durham University from Methodist College Belfast and thats when cricket turned from a hobby to a full-time thing.

We had Paul Grayson, ex-England and Essex and I worked with him for three years and he was the one who really helped bring my game onto the next level. A couple of years ago, the inter-pros got first class status and playing for the Northern Knights it has kicked on from there.

The next few years should see how far McCollum can go.