Mark Nicholas
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Former Hampshire batsman; host of Channel 9's cricket coverage

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

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

Mark Nicholas at Lord's

July 18, 2013

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

It was a tough day for James Pattinson, England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 1st day, July 18, 2013
Trying to replicate what Glenn McGrath did at Lord's was easier said than done © Getty Images

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

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Posted by Jaffa79 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.

Posted by brusselslion 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!

Posted by MrBobDobalina 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by milepost 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,

Posted by   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'.

Posted by venkatesh018 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.

Posted by venkatesh018 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.

Posted by crh8971 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.

Posted by tjsimonsen 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.

Posted by millsy24 on (July 19, 2013, 4:35 GMT)

Malx, Starc and Pattinson know how to bowl line and length. Just a bit over-awed by playing in their first Ashes. Who says Bird wouldn't get hit around but in saying that he will get a game at some stage? And Faulkner, he'll possibly get a game when the result is known. These English batsmen would eat him, his attitude and his lollipop balls for breakfast. He isn't ready yet for this.

Posted by funkybluesman on (July 19, 2013, 2:49 GMT)

Pat Cummins opened the bowling for the Australia-A game just underway and took 2-5 in his opening spell. Pattinson at his best can be a very good bowler. But Cummins I believe is something really special. He's quicker, regularly bowling spells above 150km/h and swings the ball around well at pace. It's great to see him back playing and bowling in a game that goes for more than a few hours. Hopefully he can come through this hit-out well. If so, he might be a bolter for one of the later matches in this series, or at least a real good chance come the return leg in Australia.

If England do get on top in the series and we finish with a dead rubber or two, and Cummins comes through the A-tour well, bring him in for the end of this series to get a test under his belt before returning to Australia!

Posted by HatsforBats on (July 19, 2013, 2:28 GMT)

@landl47, I'm not suprised his pace was down, he looked very nervous and obviously couldn't handle it (& the slope) today. But how is he not being used right? He was given multiple opportunities to run in hard and didn't deliver at all. Thats poor performance not poor management. I thought Starc would have been a better fit for the attack considering Harris/Siddle/Pattinson all have a similar MO, also some rough for Agar would've been nice.

Posted by Biggus on (July 19, 2013, 0:38 GMT)

@2MikeGattings:-Perhaps you haven't seen much of Pattinson in action before, but you should consider your team fortunate that he's been badly out of sorts so far. The reason that Starc rather than Pattinson was dropped for this game despite both being erratic at Trent Bridge is that it's most uncharacteristic for Pattinson to be so, whereas it's pretty standard for Starc, and thus Pattinson's poor performance there is seen as a statistical outlier. His good figures thus far in his career are no anomaly. He's a very good bowler with a good repeatable action, unlike MJ, and if or when he hits his stride in this series he's going to be very difficult to counter as he usually bowls a pretty full length and gets movement both in the air and off the seam. Mark my words, if he sorts out whatever it is that's troubling him the English batsmen will have plenty to deal with.

Posted by markofcaloundra on (July 19, 2013, 0:22 GMT)

Yes. Not Pattinson's best day. But back him to be in the wickets on day two. He is a good comeback bowler. Said in first test S Smith should have been bowled...finally Pup!!! Was same with Katich under Ponting...was never bowled enough. Further, I would employ S Warne as spin bowling coach to S Smith and F Ahmed, and have both bowl, bowl bowl bowl a lot in FC/Australia A/to improve them. Both have it in them to be good test bowlers. England are always vulnerable to leggies, esp now they have decided to prepare turners for this series. Prediction: F Ahmed will play in this series... and Australia will win a couple of tests.Go Boof.

Posted by   on (July 19, 2013, 0:16 GMT)

Pattinson suffered from being used a stock bowler... I don't think he and Harris can be in the same side as they both are used most effectively used in bursts... Unless the spinner bowls more overs,

@landl47 oh agar was hurt was he? that makes alot more sense I was wondering why it took clarke so long to give him a bowl

Posted by Shaggy076 on (July 19, 2013, 0:03 GMT)

landl47; I think speed cameras at different venues vary. In Australia Pattinson, Starc, Siddle, Harris are around 145. In India it was closer to 150 and now in England it is at 140. It's all the bowlers that there speeds are slower than in Australia. Would be interesting to compare the speeds of the English with what they register in Australia.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (July 18, 2013, 23:13 GMT)

Patto bowled poorly, and looked like he was bowling within himself. I can't see the point of him trying to bowl like a medium pacer. But I guess with Harris in the team he's been told hell have to bowl more overs, with Harris as the strike bowler. Still, Clarke used the bowlers well in the first session - which is all I watched.

The other factor is that England have completely changed the playing conditions for this series, serving up dry, flat pitches. This amuses me. If England really are so much superior to Australia, why do they need to create such unnatural conditions for the series? Basically the track is designed to nullify Pattinson above all other Aussie bowlers, so Pattinosn should feel flattered. Still, he needs to get his rhythm right. With the new ball tomorrow and only three wickets left, he can afford to go flat out.

Posted by Malx on (July 18, 2013, 21:43 GMT)

Once again , bad selection will cost us! Harris wasn't in 1st test and cowens was. Starc & Pattinson need to go back to basics, learn line & length but neither has a brain !! Bird & Faulkner please.

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (July 18, 2013, 20:37 GMT)

He sprayed it left and right like the equally-hyped Mitch in 2009, only slower.

Posted by chitti_cricket on (July 18, 2013, 20:16 GMT)

what a write mate, exactly what Australia in late 80s, early 90s and early 2000s did at Lords for years and for ashes test after ashes test at Lords. That is why Ausies have 16 wins there out of 36. Seems like the old Ausie bowlers worked out on that slope but the new generation has to get used to it. All in all The fast bowlers except Siddle bowled OK I think, even Pattinson. With more fuller off stump line and pitch becoming more drier and opening bit little cracks (if at all) both spinners and fast men become great threat here around 2nd innings I assume.

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Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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