If Cameron Bancroft and Marnus Labuschagne were among the last players settled upon by the national selectors for this years Ashes tour, James Pattinson has revealed that he may well have been the first.
The broad grin that appeared on the face of the selection chairman Trevor Hohns when asked about Pattinson's return to Ashes ranks was perhaps the most spontaneous moment of an otherwise highly orchestrated squad announcement in Southampton, and Pattinson was himself able to outline how, as far back as the end of the Sheffield Shield final, that he was advised that he need only keep himself fit and keep bowling as he had done in recent months to assure himself of a spot.
It was a revelation at odds with the tense way in which the 25 players in Hampshire were advised of how the squad had been cut back to 17, via 25 individual meetings with Hohns at the team hotel, but also spoke volumes for how highly Pattinson is regarded as a bowler of high pace, accuracy, hostility and movement both through the air and off the pitch. Having been robbed of a significant contribution to the 2013 Ashes by injury, his time looms now.
"I feel like I have a lot to offer the Australian cricket team and that's what I'm excited about," Pattinson said. "I remember Cracker [Hohns] ringing me after the Shield final this year asking what are your plans? We want you fit for the Ashes. That's when I knew I was a chance of getting back into the Australian set up and since then we've kept in constant communication about being managed. Knowing that you're wanted and feel like you can make a difference to the team. I think I can do that given the chance.
"When I have played for Australia I've made good impact. Being a bit older and wiser, knowing your game a bit better, I definitely feel I can impact Tests and not just that but influence players around me to try and push them on as well. I had a meeting about two months with JL [Langer] and Cracker when I got a contract and they said if I'm fit and bowling well then I'd be every chance of being in the Ashes. There was constant communication between myself and my county team and Cricket Australia about bowling loads because I knew how much this was a really important series so I didn't want to burn myself out."
Pattinsons was just 23 years old six years ago when he bowled the first ball of the 2013 series at Trent Bridge, and made an impact with both the ball and the bat in a match Australia lost by only a handful of runs. But the strain of back-to-back Tests was compounded by a batting collapse in the first innings at Lord's that had Pattinson bowling again within hours, leading to a tear that brought the fast bowler to tears and pushed him away from Ashes cricket for the next three whole series.
"Because I was in such a really good space going into that, when you're 23 you don't really think about too much you just crack on and do it all," he said. "That's the great thing about being young, you just do it and you don't really worry about the outcome. For me, it was just a good experience to be involved in that series. I was bowling the first ball for my country at 23 so it was pretty exciting.
"I came into that series in a really good space so to get injured was quite disappointing - it probably hit me harder than it has before. Even the setbacks after that, that one was probably the hardest one to take just because I didn't think it was going to happen, I wasn't thinking about getting injured. That's the thing you learn, you know that when you get older the chances of getting injured are always there and you have to do rehab, you have to be really diligent with all that sort of thing otherwise you leave yourself really open."
The onset of maturity has been seen in Pattinson's personal life - fatherhood for one - but also his bowling and his attitude to it. Looking at the abundance of pace bowling riches on offer to Tim Paine's team, Pattinson said he had no qualms about being rested from parts of the series if it meant that the best bowlers for a given match and circumstance were on the park at the critical moment, reflecting on how his state coach Andrew McDonald emphasised the long game.
"Realistically if you have a big workload and with my history with my back, backing up has been one of the hardest things I've had to do especially after bowling 50 or 40 overs," he said. "I've been working closely with Andrew McDonald and the Vic physio since I've been coming and one his messages to me was 'I want to try and get you to 35 and not 30' and that's something that really hit home with me, that I want to try and be around for the next six years and not one year.
"I've been through all this surgery to try and do that. As big as an Ashes series is you have to think of it long term. I think it's something a lot of people have been waiting for. Especially Cricket Australia, who has invested a lot into us a young fellas. We were all playing pretty much the same age group together and they've always wanted to have a lot of these bowlers up and running at the same time. They've got that now so it gives them a great choice of variety of bowlers. It also gives them the option of resting players. It's five Tests with two tour games in six weeks then straight into an Australian summer."
This is not to say that Pattinson has got here without hiccups. The coaches, selectors and sports scientists held their collective breath when Pattinson was briefly sidelined for Nottinghamshire by a side strain early in the county season, but experience of previous injuries helped him to manage the ailment successfully without letting it escalate.
"It was a funny one because I didn't feel anything bowling and woke up the next morning feeling a little sore coughing," he said. "I had the same thing in the Big Bash and I decided to play the next game and I ripped it off the bone. If anything you can learn from your mistakes. That was a good one. We got it early and I missed a couple of games. For someone who has gone through extensive injuries and time off the field, you're talking up to a year at a time with back injuries, those little injuries you can take them a bit better. That's the bonus of being a bit older now - you know your body a bit better. If you get them early you could just miss two-three weeks like I did there. As I'm getting older I think I'm learning a bit which is good."
Learning has also applied to Pattinson's bowling craft, as he underlined by repeating the mantra "good areas" multiple times when speaking ahead of the warm-up match in which he had the ball on a string through figures of 4 for 35 from 23 overs. "The best thing with international cricket and playing different teams is you're exposed to all sorts of people of great quality, he said. "I've worked closely with a guy called Andy Pick who is a bowling coach at Nottingham who is really good.
"I was over here in 2013 and picked up a few things there. I bowled closely with Stuart Broad for half a dozen games. You just learn by looking at those blokes and seeing how they go about it. A really big help for me is Sidds [Peter Siddle], who's played a lot of cricket over here and done really well too. So to have him in the squad and players like that to bounce ideas off and communicate with is great."
The faith placed in Pattinson by the selectors is shown in how calm and quietly confident he appears, in contrast to the ebullience of his wicket celebrations. Pattinson, for so long the coming man, knows his time is now, and his place is right here. "I'm here now, I've got the chance," he said. "I'm still 29 so the great thing was I experienced Test cricket at such a good age so it holds me in great shape now.
"I'm not someone who hasn't played before, it's something I've done at a young age. I'm a bit more experienced having setbacks and going through a lot of emotions at a younger age it holds me in good shape a bit older and a bit more relaxed."