Victoria will enter the Sheffield Shield final against South Australia with James Pattinson bowling as well as he ever has in his career, according to senior batsman Aaron Finch. Pattinson destroyed Queensland by claiming 5 for 7 in the second innings of Victoria's final regular game last week, and had also run through Western Australia with a five-wicket haul in Alice Springs in the previous round.
Pattinson had been out of action due to injury for nearly a year when he returned for the BBL and the second half of the Shield summer, and he has spoken of his desire to get through the Shield season before being considered for national selection. Finch said Pattinson was bowling as well as he had in his career, though scarily for opponents he appeared to still be bowling within himself.
"When he gets his tail up and the ball is shifting in the air slightly, it's a different ball game," Finch said. "He's someone who has obviously got pace. I think it took a couple of games for him to find his rhythm back again. I think he was, probably by his own admission, a little bit off the mark in his first couple of Shield games back.
"But that second-innings spell against WA up in Alice - to knock them over when they were starting to build a nice lead, was unbelievable. Then he kept that going in Brisbane. He looks like he's bowling within himself, but still fast and with a lot of control. He's obviously very passionate and when he gets his tail up, he can be hard to stop.
"I don't know if I have seen him bowl better than this at the moment. I think that he is really comfortable where his action is at and where his body is at. Not being a fast bowler, I can't imagine the mental toughness that it takes to get through injury after injury, doing all your rehab, getting back, then being back in the gym doing your rehab again. He's just really comfortable with where his game is at."
Pattinson could be a key factor in Victoria's push to win a third consecutive Sheffield Shield title, a hat-trick that New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have all achieved but the Bushrangers have not. The final against the Redbcaks begins on Sunday at Traeger Park in Alice Springs, which has become a second home for Victoria in recent years due to the unavailability of the MCG due to AFL season.
"I think the wicket up in Alice is reasonably slow by nature," Finch said. "I don't think that good players are generally worried by pace, they're more worried by movement. If you can move the ball at 135, it's a lot tougher to face than someone who doesn't swing it at 145. But he [Pattinson] has got all the attributes at the moment to knock over a side.
"The great thing about us at the moment is we've got guys bowling beautifully around him. Chris Tremain is in great form, Scott Boland came in in the last game and had a real impact when he got the ball in his hand. Along with Jon Holland … it's a nice balanced attack we've got at the moment.
"The boys love it up there. A couple of weeks ago was my first time playing up there. It's a great ground, it's great facilities. The way that the town up there welcomes us is fantastic. I think we've played five games over the last two and a bit years. It's a place the boys love playing. It suits our style of play."