Pattinson takes heart from Johnson, Harris comebacks
If there was one thing that cut through the frustration for James Pattinson as he sat at home watching his team-mates complete a 5-0 Ashes sweep, it was seeing fast bowlers like himself bounce back from injuries to bury England. A stress fracture of the back ruled Pattinson out of the series and he has now played only 12 of a possible 29 Tests since his debut, but Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson have endured similar lay-offs over the years.
"It's difficult when you want to be playing out there and you've had a taste of playing Test cricket and realising how good it is and how much you miss it when you're not there," Pattinson said on Monday. "But seeing the boys and how they went about it, you can learn a lot from that.
"Especially from two guys who have been through tough stuff with injuries, Mitch and Rhino, who is almost at his peak at 34. It holds me in good belief that I'm almost 10 or 12 years away from there. I know it's going to be a long road, a tough road, but I'm looking forward to it."
That road begins with Australia's tour of South Africa next month, after Pattinson, 23, was named in the 15-man squad for the three Tests. Pattinson and Jackson Bird were preferred to Nathan Coulter-Nile as the backups to the pace-bowling unit of Johnson, Harris and Peter Siddle, and the allrounder James Faulkner.
However, Pattinson will face a challenge to build up his workload to Test levels, given that he has not played a first-class match since the Lord's Test in July. Four BBL matches for the Melbourne Renegades and a return to the one-day international side in Sydney on Sunday have given Pattinson some sort of bowling practice, but he knows that plenty of work remains to return to his best.
"It's hard to find your straps straight away," he said. "I was quite lucky to get a few wickets with the Renegades early and helped my confidence a little bit. I bowled some good balls yesterday but there was a few bad balls in there, a few boundary balls. Once I get back playing continuous cricket and training, the more I'll bowl and the better I'll feel and the more consistent I'll get with my bowling."
Pattinson has been bowling up to 12 overs in the nets to build up his workload, and there is also the warm-up match in Potchefstroom ahead of the first Test in Centurion to get back into red-ball cricket. However, the presence of Harris, Johnson and Siddle in the attack means that his chances of a call-up will more arise through injury, but whatever the case he knows that the pitches in South Africa could make the job a little easier.
"I think the wickets over there help a little bit," he said. "They're as quick if not quicker over there in South Africa. It's a scary thought for the batsmen, knowing you've got Mitch, Rhino and Sidds in one team and then Steyn, Morkel and Philander in the other team.
"It's a tough challenge and the batsmen are going to have to be on their game and the same with the bowlers. There's big expectation on the bowlers to go over there and perform because there's been so much talk. I think our bowling attack is suited to that."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here