The latest of many James Pattinson comebacks from injury will have the extra edge of a potential Ashes berth in the offing, when he turns out for Victoria against New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield match at Drummoyne Oval from Tuesday.
At the start of this season, Pattinson had set himself the goal of finding a place in Australia’s squad to tour England later this year, six years after he first made the trip as a young tearaway in 2013. That series ended, as so many have for Pattinson, in injury and anguish, as he played in Nottingham and at Lord’s before tearing a side muscle in the second innings of that Test.
His most recent Test appearance for Australia was as far back as February 2016 in New Zealand, and he has since undergone radical back surgery by Cricket Australia’s standards in an attempt to get away from the treatment room and back in the middle more often.
“The big goal would be to play in the Ashes next year,” Pattinson had said in November. “But I know that there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before that happens and there’s a lot of games of cricket. Obviously, this is just the start of hopefully working towards that.
“It [recovery] took a bit longer I think when I started bowling. I was bowling indoors and it felt a little bit sore to start with and slowly got better. It probably took more time than I thought. Obviously, there’s some frustrating mornings when you wake up and can hardly move. But I think talking to a lot of the guys who have had the surgery, Shane Bond included, he basically said just keep going, it will get better and better, which it has.
“And since I’ve been bowling outdoors, it’s felt really good. Touch wood, I haven’t had a problem with it since I’ve been bowling. But, like I said, it is only early days. If I’m still standing here playing at the end of the season I’ll be happy.”
After taking nine wickets in four Shield appearances before Christmas with Victoria, Pattinson was waylaid by a side strain while playing for Brisbane Heat during the Big Bash League. He has subsequently worked his way back to fitness, and now has Victoria’s run to the Shield final to show his capabilities at 28 years of age.
“After James’ setback during the BBL, we had the vision of him making a return at the back-end of the Shield season,” Victoria’s chairman of selectors Andrew Lynch said. “He’s obviously a quality player that has the ability to win matches, and he’s coming in at a crucial time as we look to secure a spot in the final later this month.”