It was a New Zealand surgeon who helped put James Pattinson back together and now the quick bowler will hope to show the full benefits of his career-saving treatment against the Trans-Tasman rivals.
Barring a late injury or other unforeseen events, Pattinson is all-but locked in to play his first home Test since in nearly four years, on his home ground of the MCG, as Josh Hazlewood’s replacement on Boxing Day. It follows his return to the Test scene during the Ashes where he played two of the five Tests, at Edgbaston and Headingley, having gone under the knife in 2017 with the operation on his spine carried out by New Zealander Grahame Inglis.
He has had to bide his time since and had it not been for the injury to Hazlewood faced the prospect of going through the season without a Test appearance. At the beginning of the summer it was billed as a head-to-head with Mitchell Starc – who is now in career-best form – but Pattinson was ruled out of contention for the Brisbane Test against Pakistan due to his code of conduct suspension, following the slur against Cameron Gannon in the Sheffield Shield match at the MCG, which led to the ban due to the accumulation of previous offences.
Pattinson, who has played just 19 Tests since his debut in 2011, acknowledged he would learn from his errors but said he won’t be toning down his aggression in the middle.
“I just play cricket the way I know how to,” he said. “I suppose if that’s pushing the line, it’s pushing the line, I think when you go through setbacks like being suspended you have to think about that a little bit more but I think I get the best out of my cricket when I’m getting up there and going 100%.
“I’m not going to hold back, there’s a line, sometimes you cross it, and if I look back on it you learn from those mistakes and you try to address them.”
When coach Justin Langer effectively rubberstamped Pattinson’s recall yesterday (and when the squad was named last week) he spoke of Pattinson’s hunger to make up for lost time. Pattinson reiterated it.
“I’ve been through a lot of setbacks, the hunger has always been there, so hopefully if I’m rewarded with a game I can put in a good performance,” Pattinson said on Monday. “You always have to expect things could pass you by after being through so much disappointment with my back, it’s always in the back of your mind, but I like to keep a good mind on things and work one day at time.”
Team-mates are looking forward to him translating his form in training to the middle. “Fingers crossed he gets through the next few days and gets all his bowling done in the middle, because he hasn’t been much fun to face in the nets,” Matthew Wade said.
His home return against New Zealand brings him up against an opponent he has had considerable success against with 20 wickets at 17.70 in three Tests. He made his debut against them at the Gabba in 2011, where he took 5 for 27 in the second innings, which was followed by another five in the first innings of the next match in Hobart although that was a Test Australia would go onto lose by seven runs.
During the Ashes he formed pace attacks alongside Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Peter Siddle but this Boxing Day Test will be first time he has made a trio with Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc – the three fastest bowlers currently in contention for the Test side.
“I’m pretty excited by the opportunity,” he said. “Through my whole career I’ve played a lot of cricket with Patty and Mitch and a lot against them in under-age stuff, so to hopefully get a chance to play for them for Australia is pretty exciting.”
Following his five wickets in the two Ashes Tests, Pattinson has taken 14 Sheffield Shield scalps at 28.64 this season and one of his outings was on the MCG pitch for the match against Queensland which was highly rated and is hoped will be the basis for the Test strip after concerns following the abandonment earlier this month.
“It was a good cricket wicket, we got a result late on day four which is great,” he said. “Both teams were in with a chance the whole game. There was a bit of movement for the bowlers and you could score runs as well. Hopefully it’s an exciting wicket.”