Somerset v Australians, Taunton, 3rd day June 29, 2013

Pattinson strikes Ashes rhythm

Less than a year ago, James Pattinson finished an ODI tour of England with mediocre results. A year on, he has used that experience to emerge as Australia's first choice among fast bowlers leading up to the Ashes

Should James Pattinson maintain his current head of steam, then English generosity in allowing no fewer than three separate Australian tours of the country in the 12 months leading up to the Ashes series will feel foolhardy indeed. Already considered the first choice among Australia's fast bowlers when fit, Pattinson is looming as a major protagonist in the Test series to come and appears more than ready to uncoil for the task.

On his first UK visit, for an ODI series a year ago, Pattinson was short of match practice and control. Unable to locate any customary swing, he repeatedly speared the new ball into the pads of a grateful Ian Bell, and finished his two matches with the combined figures of 0 for 80 from 16 mediocre overs delivered at only a little above Clint McKay's medium pace. It was enough to have the English asking, quite understandably: "Is that all you've got?"

A year on, against Somerset on an unhelpful pitch, Pattinson had considerably more. He ripped out seven wickets while employing a variety of methods, from new ball swing and well-aimed bouncers to fiendish reverse movement and intelligent use of the crease once the Dukes had lost their shine. All this was the result of lessons learned on that seemingly fruitless visit a year ago and honed for Australia A over the past month.

"One thing I've changed is I was bowling quite wide of the crease last year in the one-day series," Pattinson said. "I think especially to England they've got a lot of right-handers who play well off their pads, so if the ball's not swinging the angle into the pads is quite easy because they can hit through the line. A lot of the good bowlers out here get close to the stumps, and then with the seam movement it can go either way and gets the batsmen playing a bit more down the ground.

"That's one thing I've really tried to work on, using the crease more and getting close to the stumps. It's just the fact I've played more cricket now, and I've also got into a better rhythm. Last year I had a few injuries I was trying to get over and I really didn't have much cricket leading into it. This time I've had no excuse for not being prepared, because we've had a good lead-in."

Rhythm is important to Pattinson, in much the same way it was to his mentor, Craig McDermott. In Taunton, Pattinson's swiftness did not appear forced, evidence that alongside learning how to bowl effectively in England, Pattinson is also realising that his best is achieved not through pressing for extra pace but by working steadily into his rhythm while remaining relaxed - a posture the new coach Darren Lehmann is encouraging.

"It's actually funny as a fast bowler, you go out there on some days and say I'm going to bowl fast and it never actually happens like that," Pattinson said. "There are days when you try to get it in the right areas and it's just all about rhythm, and you end up bowling quicker than the days you say you're bowling 100 miles an hour.

"The emotions running around in the first Test will be a lot different. Obviously there will be some nerves but again you've got a point to prove and as a team we've definitely got that. We've had a lot of doubters over the last month leading into this and, as a group, there's a good feeling there that we've got a point to prove."

Before Nottingham, Pattinson will observe the battle to join him in the tourists' first Test bowling attack. One of the more intriguing subplots surrounds Peter Siddle, the senior bowler in the team but increasingly a player who requires plenty of overs to build up to his best. In India earlier this year, Siddle did not show anywhere close to his best until the third Test in Mohali, and this time around he is still fighting to hurl the ball down with control of line and movement one match out from the start of the serious stuff.

"I think Pete's one of those guys who knows his body quite well now, and he's quite a bit older than me and Starcy [Mitchell Starc]," Pattinson said. "So it's a long series, five Tests so he's probably the guy that when the wicket is pretty flat you'll always call to and he does a fantastic job. I don't know whether he's saving himself a bit for what's to come, because he's pretty smart with his body now.

"Sidds has been a great bowler for a number of years now and I think he's pretty happy with where he's at. He bowled well on the A tour and maybe he didn't bowl as well as he would have liked in this game, but he's a fantastic player and he'll step up for the first Test definitely."

Siddle may yet find his range, but for the moment no one is more keen for the Ashes to start than an older and wiser, but still joyfully exuberant, Pattinson. As he puts it: "If the first Test was in three days, I'd be ready to go."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • wayne on July 1, 2013, 11:28 GMT

    Second that, Meety: I'd be happy to never see Pattinson bowling in pyjamas ever again. He's got the potential to be one of the best quicks Australia has produced, and I don't want to see him wasted in short-form rubbish when he's so good to watch in tests. On the topic of the bowling line up? Gosh, how do you pick it? Pattinson is #1 pick, then you could have any combination of Siddle, Starc, Bird, Harris, even Faulkner, and Lyon. I'd go Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Lyon, but in five minutes time it'll probably be Pattinson, Siddle, Harris, Agar. I really hope Agar manages to maintain his good domestic figures for a couple of seasons - that kid is looking damn good already...

  • Andrew on July 1, 2013, 7:06 GMT

    @AidanFX on (July 1, 2013, 5:30 GMT) - totally disagree re: "...travesty he has not been put in for contention of One Day matches..." - I would be happy if he NEVER plays another ODI game again. Note that one of the reasons Dale Steyn has been the premier pace bowler for many years - is that they rotate him out of the Saffa ODI side. After the 2015 W/Cup - I want Starc out of the ODI side too. We have enuff bowlers to stock three International sides & the evidence is pretty clear that going from short form games up to FC/Tests puts a massive strain on bowlers. I think PAtto has the potential to be an all time great bowler, but he has racked up a fair few injuries so far & really needs to have his schedule heavily monitored.

  • Brady on July 1, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    Pattinson will be selected for the 1st test. I think the selector's will keep their faith in Siddle as well. Assuming Lyon will play (which is a pretty safe bet), that leaves one fast bowling spot open. Presumably the selectors will consider Bird, Harris and Starc for this spot. Now, an examination of these bowlers returns dictates that the common sense pick will be either Harris or Bird. If Harris is 100 %, I would select him over Bird. However, given the outlandish selection of the past few years, I won't be surprised if Starc is preferred.

  • Travis on July 1, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    The thing about Pattinson is that he has the ego (and I mean that in a good way) needed to be a great bowler. He has the self-belief necessary to become World Class.

    It will be interesting to see if Bird and Harris can put some pressure on the selectors in the upcoming match. Both of them would be preferable to Siddle IMHO.

    However, the less said about our batting lineup the better, especially if Clarke's back continues to cause problems.

  • Aidan on July 1, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    Aim for running close to the stumps - bowling wide of the crease occassionallly is ok - Pattinson bowled a ripper to Dravid that way. Pattinson has all the makings to be one of the finest bowlers in the world. He just has such a beautiful action and always when in half decent form has a perfectly upright seam. He is the sort of guy people pay to watch a live game. It is a travesty he has not been put in for contention of One Day matches in a bid to 'avoid injury'.

  • Basil on June 30, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    Pattinson is a shoe-in. Starc can bowl the unplayable, but is also too loose and can relieve pressure of the batting team. Siddle is a trier but just isn't as talented as our other options. Harris when fit is the best bowler in the country. The best attack for the First Test (which is what they should be picking) is Patto, Harris, and Bird, with Lyon and Watto. Although if they could pick out of the squad, Sayers for Bird would give us our most effective attack for UK conditions. I think what I am trying to say is that if Australia is serious about winning the Ashes they should DRAFT SAYERS INTO THE SQUAD. He will be an out and out success over there.

  • Chris on June 30, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    As I said a long, long time ago, the best two available test bowlers in Australia currently are Pattinson and Harris. They are both absolute quality. Following that I think Bird has enormous potential to be one of the great bowlers if he keeps his consistency up and I really like the look of Sayers and Faulkner in tests as well. Sandhu, Zampa and Agar have also shown potential. Copeland could have been there, but I think he missed his opportunity in Sri Lanka. I've ALWAYS said Siddle is an average bowler who can be very inconsistent, but I didn't mind having him in as a squad bowler. The selectors though inexplicably seem to persist with him as first choice. I'm pretty sure the first test will be Siddle, Pattinson, Starc and Lyon, despite the fact that the correct answer would have been Pattinson, Harris, Bird and Faulkner/O'Keefe. I think our batting will improve against pace this time around though as they face more quality in the nets.

  • Nicholas on June 30, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    Siddle is tireless and nagging; Lyon is containing only. I can't believe people are saying Siddle shouldn't play... if this infamous pace-battery of Aus. doesn't strike, they will run out of puff and there will be no-one else to fill up the overs. Maybe Clarke's back will get better and he can bowl his offies again? Watson and Faulkner going to fill in?

  • ben on June 30, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    Its good to see Pattinson in good form. Same can't be said about siddle. While I appreciate his loinhearted attitude. He just ins't of the quailty of Pattinson, Starc, Harris and Bird who are all strike wicket taking bowlers. Yes starc can be wayward at times but his still young. Glenn Mcgrath took a long time before he matured and look how good he became. Pattinson will only get better and will be one of the top three bowlers in the world after these two ashes series. Harris does get injured, but when fit he is australia's number one bowler. Bird is the sort of bowler who can contain, swing the ball and take wickets. Unfortunately Siddle goes many tests with taking wickets at the right times. He takes wickets once the opposition is 2/400. He bowls containing lines not wicket taking ones. If they drop him he still has time to work on his game and come better and stronger.

  • Guy on June 30, 2013, 0:24 GMT

    @vallavarayar, I think you'll find that taking 20 wickets is a necessary but not a sufficient condition.

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