James Pattinson fights his way back to fulfill Ashes promise

Australia
So, what do you think? Will I get picked? James Pattinson makes faces at a camera © Getty Images

To say James Pattinson has unfinished business in Ashes cricket in England would be quite an understatement. It’s six years since he played the first two matches of the 2013 encounter at Trent Bridge and Lord’s, tearfully withdrawing in the middle of the second match with a side strain that was to be only an early instance of the litany of injuries that would follow.

Foot, back, side, shin, stomach. All were areas where Pattinson experienced the pain of injury, though it was recurring back stress fractures that caused the most grief. It was something of a final gamble when Pattinson traveled to New Zealand in November 2017 for surgery previously undergone by Shane Bond, among others, a procedure he underwent with one goal in mind – to be in England for this Ashes series.

“I knew that if I was up and running, string a few on the pitch, that I would have every chance of getting picked in an Ashes team,” Pattinson said. “Going back to a year-and-a-half ago when I was contemplating whether to get back surgery and whether it was going to work. There was a month there where there was a bit of unknown and conjecture around whether I would get back to playing cricket. Sitting here now after going through all that is quite pleasing that I am here and bowling and putting myself in position to get picked in an Ashes series.

“You go through your career, you try different things, you get setbacks, you go through strategies and theories and you work out what’s best for you. You have to try things in cricket, some things don’t work and some things do. For me it worked in a way, with my action it’s sort of somewhere in between when I first started and when I tried to remodel it.

“I tried to let that evolve over the last few years and I am happy with where that is, my body is feeling good and more than anything I can relax and run in and bowl and not worry about where my back foot’s landing and if the front arm is high and that stuff. When you are trying to play Test cricket and you are doing that it is hard work, I’m in a good spot at the moment and I have come off a bit of cricket and that’s a bonus for me.”

Now Pattinson is here, and by dint of his proven ability to be highly destructive when fit and in rhythm, he appears certain to be one of the members of the final Ashes squad to be named later this week. And as those who have seen him bowl for Nottinghamshire know well, Pattinson has the ability to claim a lot of wickets in a hurry.

James Pattinson in his delivery stride © Getty Images

“If my body holds up I think I can challenge them over here,” Pattinson said in Southampton. “It’s pretty simple, you get wickets that can assist you and you get wickets that are quite flat so, to have the ability to bowl on a flat wicket or a wicket that’s seaming around hopefully I can do that. It’s pretty simple over here you try to hit the same area. You look at Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, they are always challenging the batsman, challenging the defence.

“If we can take something out of the series before is to be trying to always challenge the front foot, challenging the knee roll and trying to stay in one spot in the wicket and not release too many boundary balls. Over here you see a lot of boundaries hit, the run rate is often a lot higher if we can try and cut that down. Over the years we have managed to try and take wickets but a bit more expensive than what it would be in other places, so I think that’s a big push from bowlers.”

Since his debut in 2011 when he razed New Zealand at the Gabba, there has been nothing in Australian cricket quite like seeing Pattinson in full flight. It was a sight most recently glimpsed in this year’s Sheffield Shield final at Junction Oval, where New South Wales’ challenge was brought undone by a fiery Pattinson, screeching in aggressive delight at each one of his seven victims. Taking wickets “in clumps” is part of Pattinson’s gift, now allied to a more mature understanding of the pace bowler’s craft in England.

“Over the years I have been able to come on and take wickets in clumps so I suppose the selectors are looking for bowlers who can do a bit of that and bowlers who can bowl economically as well,” he said. “I’ve played enough cricket, I’ve been over here three months with Nottingham which is fantastic for someone like me who hasn’t had a great load of cricket over the last few years. I managed to play a fair few Shield games this year and obviously moved on into the summer here and the good thing is I’ve come off plenty of cricket.

“They’ve shown over here they can play swing bowling quite well, if it swings big and you’re not getting the right areas, it doesn’t really matter. So it’s about trying to get the ball in the right area, i think it’ll hopefully do it off the pitch. And obviously if the conditions are right it’ll swing. The hard thing over here is if the sun does come out it’s quite challenging to bowl, because your margin for error is quite low.

“So all off a sudden you’ve got to be on the spot, that’s when you try to work with training your positions on the crease and all that sort of thing, to try and work with it. I think it’ll be about thinking on our feet over here and during this next game as well, working together and bowling in partnerships. Hopefully that’ll bring some good success.”

Pattinson’s aggressive, unbridled approach to fast bowling is epitomised by how he talks about bowling in the nets to Australia’s leading players. In an era of workload management and careful preparation, Pattinson cannot help but admit that he always bowls a little faster to the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and now the returned Steven Smith.

“Throughout my career I’ve always tried to crank it up a little bit to the best batter,” he said. “I know when I first came into a Test match, in 2010 in India, and Ricky Ponting was there. I always made a conscious effort to bowl a bit faster to him then always to Michael Clarke too. You always try to get in with the best batters and bowl well against them, I think the selectors like that.”

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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