Succession plan: Pattinson ready to go back-to-back

The Sydney Morning Herald Sports 3 days ago
James Pattinson in full flight during the Ashes.

The battle for a fast-bowling berth this summer is set to intensify with James Pattinson declaring he is ready to play back-to-back Tests.

Pattinson, 29, was used in the first and third Tests in the Ashes tour this winter, in part because of a newly developed rotation policy but also because he was returning from back surgery.

Injuries have restricted the one-time spearhead to 19 Tests since he debuted in 2011 but there has not been any discussion yet among the team's medical staff as to whether Pattinson is ready to front up for successive tests in a fortnight.

He is expected to be chosen in the squad for the two Tests against Pakistan, beginning on Thursday week in Brisbane.

His confidence has been buoyed after emerging unscathed from England, and he has been managed by Victoria through the early stages of the Sheffield Shield season. He played in the opening two matches, was rested from last week's clash against Tasmania and will return on Tuesday for the four-day clash against Queensland at the MCG.

Just days out from the Test squad being announced, Pattinson says he is keen to have a greater role, meaning the squeeze will be on as Australia traditionally only field three specialist quicks.

"I think the next process for me, if I do get a chance in the Test arena, is to try and play more back-to-back cricket now. I have, obviously, come back into the team, being out for three years, the next process is to try and play back-to-back cricket," Pattinson said.

"I have been injury-free for the most part of a year now. The body is feeling good."

There are several factors to address before approval would be given for a change to Pattinson's Test status.

A call would only be made after he, medical staff and selectors take into account the number of overs he was used for in a Test, how he recovers and what he and the various parties feel is best in the broader picture.

Pattinson has not set any individual goals but one ambition could be 200 Test wickets. He currently has 75 wickets at 26.64 and a strike rate of a wicket every 48.9 deliveries. When compared to the men he is predominantly jostling for a Test spot, this strike rate is better than Mitchell Starc (50) and Josh Hazlewood (57.2), and only just behind Pat Cummins (46).

Keen for a major haul against the Bulls, he will also be hoping for some added encouragement from an MCG deck that will host its opening first-class fixture of the summer.

Curator Matt Page is under pressure to add some life to tired drop-in pitches which need to provide a greater balance between bat and ball.

Victorian officials have liked what they have seen leading into this latest match but the proof will only be derived come game time. The centre square has been a focus of much debate since the lifeless pitch used in a draw against England was rated "poor" by the International Cricket Council because it failed to wear.

Despite improved moisture levels and sand base, there was further consternation on the opening two days of last summer's Test against India which again threatened to be a boring run-feast when the visitors made 7-443 (dec). However, the deck deteriorated enough late in the game to help produce a result – India recording a 137-run win.

A multimillion-dollar rebuild is under way but four new pitches won't be ready for possibly another two seasons.

"The big thing is ... to have some pace and carry in there," Pattinson said.

"Sometimes with the drop-ins, it's hard bending your back all the time to try and get some bounce and carry through to the keeper."

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