England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 1st day July 18, 2013

Pattinson's dream slopes away

There is a lot to contend with on the opening day of a Lord's Test - emotion, pressure, famous faces - but the most important is adjusting to the famous slope

The Queen, The Long Room, the history, the architecture, the members, the photographs, the adulation, the autographs, the Nursery, the nets; the Queen, your family, your friends, their friends, the tickets; the Queen, Shane Warne, the pitch, the toss, the heat, the slope, ouch, the slope! Eight feet and eight inches of it. Lads, the slope. Listen up. There is a lot to think about on the first morning of an Ashes Test at Lord's, but the one to get right above all others is the slope.

When Richie Benaud first came to England in 1953, Neil Harvey brought him to Lord's for a look. "Bit odd that slope, Harv, doesn't look right," said Benaud. "Nor would you if you were 150 years old" said Harvey. Thomas Lord moved his folly here from Westminster in 1814. Strapped of cash, he was bailed out by the governor of the Bank of England, William Ward. In the days before the lawnmower, sheep used to graze on the ground before being herded to Smithfield Market, where they were slaughtered and sold for supper.

At a guess, James Pattinson won't know much of a past that celebrates its 200th anniversary next year. But he knows that from Grandstand to Mound Stand the most famous sporting field of them all has a slope. Apparently Glenn McGrath spent Tuesday working with the Australia bowlers. McGrath loved the slope. He took 8 for 38 against England here in 1997, eight in the match in 2001, and nine in the match in 2005.

He ran in from the Pavilion End and hit a perfect length six inches outside off stump before nipping the ball back in to the batsman as if he were the devil himself. There was once a bit of a ridge too, which led to awkward bounce, and McGrath exploited it mercilessly, but that appears to have been ironed out, perhaps by the new drainage that has redirected the channels of rain water. Or perhaps this is myth. Either way, "Pigeon" loved the joint, so it was a good call by Darren Lehman to ask him to help out.

The message will have been typically uncomplicated - "Stand the seam up and hit the top of off stump with an occasional throat-high bouncer." This was the McGrath mantra at every venue, everywhere in the world. Easier said than done Glenn. Then he will have said something like: "From the Pavilion End, your line is six to eight inches outside off stump. From the Nursery End, the line is middle and off stump. The angles work in your favour because the ball will move a little with the lie of nature." He might also have said that if you get this wrong, the angles work unkindly against you. Ask Pattinson. Poor "Patto", a real giver of a cricketer, one for the trenches. But not one for a bloody slope.

Pattinson is 23 years old. With Pat Cummins, who is chronically injured it seems, he is the brightest star in the firmament of Australian cricket. He is tall and strong and bowls at a good lick. As the pros say, he hits the bat hard. He has 45 wickets at 24 apiece, so it's a promising work in progress. You might not put your house on him yet but the garage and the garden shed are safe. For all that, Pattinson could not suss the slope.

The Long Room is the first thing that gets you: all those members, ghoulish in their fascination. Then you mark out your run, and as the place wraps its arms around you, you think, gee, I dreamt about this. Pattinson was given the Nursery End but the McGrath instruction needed adaptation, for the leftie, Alastair Cook, was on strike.

So wayward were the first two overs Pattinson bowled that Michael Clarke whipped him out of the spotlight and turned to a man more experienced. One moment the captain's nemesis - in the world according to Mickey Arthur, that is - next moment, the captain's friend. It was Shane Watson to whom Clarke gave that newish ball and immediately Watson rewarded him by trapping Cook in front of all three with a lovely inswinger. That surprised us. So did the fall of Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen. Not in the script at all, not before Her Majesty. We were not amused!

Okay, great start, thought Clarke, back to "Patto" for the right-handers. No luck. Pattinson was nervous now and not much better. One good ball, one bad. He tried for the McGrath prescription, that middle-and-off line, but pushed it there rather than really let fly. Consequently the ball went too straight and Jonathan Trott worked it away, a batsman without compare off his pads. Then he over-corrected and Brad Haddin was taking deliveries in front of first slip.

No matter, "Patto" (thought Clarke, trying to stay calm), come start afresh beneath the shadow of the grand old pavilion. Thus, the 12th over of the match was bowled by Pattinson at the opposite end to the one at which he started and it was his third spell of the morning. He is not the first to find the Lord's formula elusive and he will not be the last. There was some venom this time but not much direction. The mental strain was obvious. A young man eager to make his mark at a place of champions was suffering from the whisper in the stands. A stage whisper that eats away. The harder he tried, the more transparent the pain. So Clarke gave him another breather.

Three overs straight after lunch were tidier but venomless. At three o'clock he was back, snarling. But it was no good, just not to be. The first ball back clipped the pads and raced to the fine-leg boundary. Four. The next was wide, way wide, of off stump. The others in the over were soft. Easier than it sounds, Pigeon.

Then, eureka! It is not a Pattinson day at all, thought Clarke, it is a Steve Smith day. Actually, he probably didn't think that at all but instead pined for his pal Warney, who used to lock up the Nursery End and throw away the keys. McGrath from the Pavilion, Warne at the Nursery - lovely, if only. But wait, we have a legspinner in our number. Eureka! And Smith took the three wickets that Pattinson had dreamt about. It is not a game for dreamers, not often anyway.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Colin on July 19, 2013, 18:15 GMT

    I don't know why so many people on these pages are so obsessed with the speed gun. All of this '10 blokes over 150 clicks garbage' just means nothing. Harris, Siddle and Pattinson are nothing special in the pace department but is just does not matter! Hadlee, Walsh, McGrath etc were all amazing bowlers at the end of their careers despite just about touching 80mph at times. One of the best to bowl in English conditions, Terry Alderman, was nothing more than medium pace! If pace was the be all and end all, Devon Malcolm would have taken 500 Test wickets! Pace = macho nonsense.

  • Ray on July 19, 2013, 12:50 GMT

    @venkatesh018 on (July 19, 2013, 5:22 GMT): ...while we're at it, we could play all matches indoors in controlled conditions using matting wickets!

  • Bob on July 19, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    Pattinson bowled alot of dross but there was also some prodigious outswing at times. It that sadly went to waste by not making the batsmen play when there was some swing. The decision to bowl from closer next to the stumps was surprising as he's got the ability to bowl from wide of the crease and still get the ball to hold its line. It's also adds pressure with no margin for error if he happens to drift towards leg. Towards the end of the day he was reduced to bowling a dry line to stop the carnage.

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    Agree with everyone who says Patto can be far better than he was yesterday. He is still a young bloke, time and experience will see a big improvement in his consistency. At the moment he just seems to be struggling a little to control the ball when trying to bowl a fuller length, fair enough for mine. Its a team game and he has pulled his weight so far in this series and will hopefully only get better.

  • Cameron on July 19, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    One poor day and he is getting written off in the comments here? Bit harsh isn't it? He will come good, he seems to have a bit of something about him,

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    I would not put much weightage on how Cummins performs against Zimbabwe Select or the Zimbabwe national team for that matter. Having said that, I agree Pat Cummins is a much better bowler than Pattinson. In fact to me, Pattinson seems to be over-rated; he was lucky to play a full series against a pathetic Indian team of has-beens in Australia and is now trying to live to that 'reputation'.

  • VENKATACHALAM on July 19, 2013, 5:24 GMT

    James Pattinson is what you genuinely call allrounder material. Not the likes of Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad who make a score every 25 innings.

  • VENKATACHALAM on July 19, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    If it is the most famous ground in the world, why should it have an 8 feet slope.Is it a part of the tradition of Lords ? Can somebody just level up the ground.

  • Cameron on July 19, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    @Shaggy076 I had wondered about consistency of the speed cameras myself as according to the English ones the quicks are struggling to reach 140km whereas in Australia Pattinson is consistently in the 145km plus range. Having said that he just looked slow yesterday which I had put down to a loss of rhythm but have heard on the radio today he has been unwell. Perhaps Australia took a punt on winning the toss so he would have an extra day or so to recover. I felt that in his final spell he finally got some consistency in his line & length and hopefully he will have a good session today with the new ball. Having watched all his tests I am convinced he is absolutely top draw and will give the Poms a touch up at some stage over the remainder of the back to back series.

  • thomas on July 19, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    @ TheBigBoodha: Don't think you can blame England for the 'changed' playing conditions. Unless you blame the goegraphical country as opposed to the people. The last two summers were wet, cold and miserable, but this July is turning out to be one of the driest and hottest ever. The groundsman can only do so much - here he actually left quite a bit of grass on the pitch to counter the driness. It made it look pretty strange though: brown and green at once.