India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 2nd day February 23, 2013

Pattinson delivers in short bursts

To see him taken off after three-over spells was frustrating, but Pattinson, more than any other of Australia's current Test fast bowlers, needs to be managed conservatively

James Pattinson's workload on the second day in Chennai was a microcosm of his Test career. A short period of brilliance, then a long time out of action. Another brief and eventful display followed by another lengthy break. To see him rattle the stumps of both of India's openers in a new-ball spell of 18 deliveries and then be taken off for 20 overs was frustrating but Pattinson, more than any other of Australia's current Test fast bowlers, needs to be managed conservatively.

Dennis Lillee thinks Pattinson can be the spearhead for years to come. He possesses serious pace, swing and Lillee-like raw aggression. He is the most exciting of Australia's young fast men. Besides the nearly-forgotten Pat Cummins, he is also the most injury-prone. Since his debut in December 2011, Pattinson has played eight Tests and missed eight more through injury. It is not an encouraging ratio.

A foot stress fracture prematurely ended his first Test summer and Australia's selectors were left regretting their decision to ignore the advice of sports scientists, who correctly predicted he would break down during the Sydney Test against India. A back problem affected his trip to the West Indies last April, an abdominal strain prevented him touring England with Australia A in July and a side injury stopped him mid-Test against South Africa in Adelaide in November.

During Pattinson's Sheffield Shield comeback a month ago, Victoria's captain Cameron White was told by Cricket Australia not to bowl him for any more than 12 overs per innings as his workload was gradually increased. There were no such constraints on Pattinson in Chennai, but under the circumstances it was easy to see why Michael Clarke handled him as gently as he would a priceless and fragile possession. Because that's what he is.

Twice in his first three Tests he was Man of the Match. The only time he has gone wicketless in an innings was when he broke down after 9.1 overs in Adelaide. His average of 20.88 since his Test debut is better than Dale Steyn's during the same period. Steyn is precisely the type of bowler Australia hope Pattinson can become. He has the tools. But at 22, his body hasn't reached the point of maturity at which fast-bowling injuries usually drop away.

And so for the time being, Pattinson will be used in short, strong spells. By picking five bowlers Australia afforded themselves that luxury in Chennai, although they didn't anticipate that he would be the only wicket taker. His first spell of three overs was sharp. The ball that swung in and bowled M Vijay was 150kph, far quicker than anything the Indian bowlers could deliver. And by going for his yorkers he took the slow pitch out of the equation.

Pattinson's speed was also too much for Virender Sehwag, who played on. But his dismissal was followed by three boundaries from Sachin Tendulkar and Clarke, sensing that Pattinson's new-ball work had been done, put his strike bowler on hold for the next 20 overs. On a Chennai day that was hot but not oppressive, perhaps Pattinson could have come back sooner, especially given the way Tendulkar and Cheteshwar Pujara became set.

But the long rest meant that when Pattinson did return he was as fresh as he had been at ball one. Again he bowled quick and although it was an offcutter that bowled Pujara, it still reached 140kph. His first spell was 3-1-16-2. His second was 3-1-9-1. He will certainly be well rested for day three. Pattinson was to come back for another spell before stumps, but Clarke was happy with the way Mitchell Starc was bowling.

Of course, there is a fine line between managing Pattinson for maximum impact and simply under-bowling him. At some point during the tour, perhaps at some stage during this match, Australia will need more from Pattinson. But if fit he will be Clarke's most valuable bowling resource during the Ashes, just as he already is on this tour. If fit. Australia can't afford for their best bowler to keep missing a Test for every one that he plays.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roo on February 26, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    This article is now defunct... Pattinson was the most used fast bowler - makes a mockery of Clarkes tactics when saving the Ind batters from our most potent bowler...

  • Patrick on February 24, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    @Harry Hussain, I think Eng's winless A Tour casts a lot of doubt over the real degree of Eng depth and that it's highly unlikely we'll see tandem spin in Eng, thus negating that avenue of advantage. Lyon will improve over this tour and so will the Aussies technique against spin, Eng certainly came good after a very poor year against spin. No sizeable advantage either way, this will be a great Ashes contest.

  • Jason on February 24, 2013, 3:35 GMT

    Great captaincy from Clarke. Hold back Patto for short bursts at the middle and lower orders, with a license to go flat-out at 150km/h.

    It would be tempting to over-bowl him in search of Tendulkar's wicket, only to watch his pace drop and risk losing him for the series to injury.

    Nerves of steel, Mr Clarke!

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2013, 3:09 GMT

    @ front foot lunge....I don't know that you understand the meaning of a "whitewash"....A whitewash is when one team wins every game in a series.. Do you remember the 2006-7 series in Australia....5-0.. That my friend is a whitewash. Do they call your team England, or are they still known as "rest of the world" outside of England.

  • Patrick on February 24, 2013, 2:14 GMT

    I'd agree Clarke under bowled Patto by a spell but support his tactic of holding back until there's evidence of movement through the air. What I thought went wrong for Aust was the tactics/execution of Sids, Starc & Lyon, regularly too much width or drifting onto the pads in all 3 cases. It's a very fine line and I thought Moises was finding it pretty consistently, would like to see him partner Patto for a stint today.

  • all on February 24, 2013, 1:20 GMT

    I take on board your very valued comments Harry Hussain however i do not agree entirely, however on the spin front i do concur. finn is in the form of his life, and has bowled some unplayable balls and is arguably as good as any fast bowler in the world atm. I do believe however that Aus pace bowling attack very close to Englands atm and in 1-2 years will be slightly stronger as injuries reduce with messrs pattinson/cummings/starc all developing well. note fyi atm in response re depth there are 8-9 other bowlers in aus that could play test cricket today if req'd (more than i can remember). also apart from Finn are Eng developing any new clear matchwinners? remember also that mr Finn has and will continue to get injuries bowling the pace he does. I have followed intently both he and pattinsons careers and i could not argue either was a better test bowler, and after watching much of cummings bowl i am sure he will become as good as either of these 2 bowlers(barring 22 yo injuries)

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2013, 0:53 GMT

    @FFL, there's a lot of difference between Patto hitting 145-150 in his first over than Finn topping out at 142km or so which is the fastest he bowled yesterday, when he tries to bowl faster, he just ends up knocking the bails off anyway, Starc, Patto & Cummins are all quicker than your little finny boy....

  • Sean on February 24, 2013, 0:26 GMT

    Now then, 6 overs in the first innings of a series, in a whole day pretty much?

    The bookies are taking bets on who will be the next aussie to break down & my fiver is on Pattinson.

  • mark on February 23, 2013, 23:08 GMT

    Pretty sure I haven't seen England on the field during this test match. Don't know why their fans are commenting on this page.

  • disco on February 23, 2013, 22:48 GMT

    @HarryHussain, thanks for the 'warning' but we don't need the trash talk because all will be revealed when the Ashes come around later this year.

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