Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale
James Pattinson is licking his lips at the prospect of returning to Australia's Test team on a pitch that should offer him - and his sore shins - some assistance. Pattinson appears almost certain to replace the injured Peter Siddle for the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch after he bowled in the nets on Thursday and came through the session seemingly unscathed.
He had been ruled out of the first Test in Wellington as the selectors were not convinced his body would stand up to the rigours of a Test match after he had spent much of the previous month sidelined by shin soreness. Pattinson had returned for Victoria two weeks ago but bowled only 21.3 overs in a Sheffield Shield game before Cricket Australia withdrew him and flew him to New Zealand.
But instead of playing him in the Test, Australia chose to keep Pattinson training in the Basin Reserve nets to prove that he could get through a full match with the view to having him available at Hagley Oval. As it happened, his workload in the nets was even higher than that of Jackson Bird, Mitchell Marsh and Siddle in the Test win.
"I got through a fair bit, I think I bowled close to 35 overs last week in the nets, which is a substantial amount in the nets," Pattinson said in Christchurch on Thursday. "So I'm full of confidence now, knowing I can get through this game and it was pleasing - because in the nets I probably bowled the best I have over the last six months. I'm starting to feel really good with my action and physically I felt really good too.
"I've had sore shins for a while. With the grounds in Australia the wickets have been really hard. I've had sore shins for most of the year and it probably just got a little bit worse. So I think with shins it's just about managing them. If you do keep playing with them, they can turn into fractures, which is something I didn't want to happen. So it's about managing them and now I'm feeling really good."
Pattinson looked fired up while bowling in the Basin Reserve nets before the Wellington Test, bouncing several of the Australian batsmen, but nothing could convince the selectors to take a punt on him and they opted instead for Siddle and Bird. Pattinson said he understood why the decision had been made, and the plan had always been for him to aim for full fitness by the second Test.
"I was a little bit sore," he said. "I probably thought I could have tried to get through but again being the first Test of the series - we sort of sat down before, when I first started back planning. I probably was trying to aim for the second Test and then if we got the first Test it'd be a bonus. So being the first Test in a big series, we just took the cautious approach.
"It wasn't ideal when Sidds went down and it wouldn't have been good if I played and went down in the first Test as well, having two down. So it's probably worked out really well for us ... I'm ready to go. I had a good workout in the nets last week. Ready to go, feeling really good and excited if I get the call-up."
Pattinson was productive in the home Test summer after coming in for the series against West Indies and collecting 13 wickets at 22.46, not that there was significant assistance for Australia's bowlers on the flat home pitches this season. They found some sideways movement on the green Basin Reserve pitch on the first morning and Pattinson has no problem with New Zealand coach Mike Hesson asking for an even greener surface at Hagley Oval.
"As fast bowlers we've had to work hard for our wickets over the last six months in Australia, the wickets have been quite flat," Pattinson said. "We come over here and we've got some green wickets. We're licking our lips, which is great. I know all the bowlers are pretty pumped and I think the green wicket should play into our hands pretty well, hopefully."