Another day, another top performance from James Pattinson with the new ball.
It might be a Sheffield Shield season like no other as we stretch into March and eventually April, but Pattinson – a man who has struggled with injuries – is finally getting to his best.
Constant cricket, lots of overs, his body is holding up and the accuracy and consistency he is bowling with is taking him straight to the top of the pile.
He was close enough to landing a Test or two in the summer just gone in the losing effort against India, and may well have without a niggle or two. But come next summer, the wickets he is taking right now as he rips through the Sheffield Shield with consistency and accuracy is putting runs on the board, so to speak.
Watching him live at Bankstown Oval last week showed the real pace he is bowling with, and all the accuracy and consistency. The way he was able to set batsmen up across the course of a spell and make things happen was outstanding, and it was no different yesterday as the Victorians started their latest match against Tasmania.
Scott Boland might take a fair chunk of the credit for his four wickets, but there was next to no chance of the Tigers being rolled for 188 without the help of Pattinson, who took two wickets and bowled economically, locking down an end every time he came on and building pressure.
Of course, the men from the Apple Isle were shaken up in their preparation, losing one late before Alex Doolan was flown in to join the game well after it started, but the form of Pattinson is speaking for itself.
Since the resumption of the Shield a handful of weeks ago, the fiery quick has taken 10-157, averaging under 16, and in all but one innings, he has bowled with excellent economy, allowing others around him to go right onto the attack and take wickets thanks to his pressure build-up.
The art of bowling in partnerships is undoubtedly one of the more important ones in cricket, and yet doesn’t get the air time. The way he has done that with Scott Boland up front and others throughout the innings suggests Pattinson is ready to have another prolonged shot in the Aussie Test team.
And after the summer just gone, his Sheffield Shield form is going to leave him at the top of the list, snapping at the heels of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood for one of the three quick bowling spots next summer.
A five-Test series against the English will certainly leave time and opportunities for changes throughout, and so even if it isn’t in the first Test, Pattinson is likely to receive an opportunity in the side at some point.
But provided he stays fit and finishes this season strongly, as well as starts next summer at the top of his game, there is no reason that opportunity shouldn’t come in the series opener against the old enemy.
While he may drop a little bit in the raw pace department to Starc, he makes up for it in the accuracy and consistency, as well as the ability to turn the tide of a match in a hurry.
It’s that skill Starc possesses, but one he hasn’t been able to put into practice in recent times.
And while, granted, Sheffield Shield cricket isn’t Test cricket against one of the strongest teams in the world, it is all we have to go on right now, and Pattinson – who has played a total of just 21 Tests in a decade – deserves to be at the top of the pecking order.
In those 21 Tests, Pattinson has proven he can handle the top level, picking up 81 wickets at a very handy 26.33, while only going at three runs per over.
The Aussies aren’t flush in the fast-bowling stocks right now, and rotation will be required next summer to manage work loads across a demanding summer.
But Pattinson, who is bowling longer spells and doing the job for the Victorians, won’t look out of place in what could well be a four or five-man rotation, with Michael Neser seemingly the other one on the radar right now.
Pattinson may have had a staggered, disjointed Test career due to injury, but he may finally be destined to get a long-term opportunity next summer.
Only time will tell, but Pattinson’s wealth of wickets and consistent bowling will have the incumbents throwing more than just the occasional glance over the shoulder.