Cricket legend Shane Warne has blasted Australia’s Ashes selection, saying there’s no way fast bowler James Pattinson should have been left out of the second Test at Lord’s starting tonight (AEST).
Pattinson was excluded from the 12-man squad announced on Tuesday and will be replaced by either Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood, who both missed the 251-run win over England at Edgbaston.
It’s likely one of those two will form a pace trio alongside Peter Siddle and Pat Cummins, while spinner Nathan Lyon will round out the bowling attack.
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Pattinson played his first Test in more than three years in Birmingham after enduring a horror run of injuries that has kept him off the park and put his career in jeopardy, and captain Tim Paine said the 29-year-old is being managed so his body is able to withstand the rigours of a five-Test series.
But Warne said there was no excuse for leaving Pattinson out after the fiery quick bowled some hostile spells and took two wickets against the hosts in the Ashes series opener.
Pattinson debuted in 2011 but in the eight years since has played just 18 Tests in total because his body has regularly let him down. His latest setback required him to undergo back surgery but he returned to action last summer and showed glimpses of his best, first in the Big Bash League and then with Victoria in the Sheffield Shield.
Pattinson’s blistering performance in the Shield final against NSW, where he took seven wickets to help the Bushrangers claim the title, reminded selectors how good he is when fully fit and he was chosen in the 17-man squad to fly to the UK for the Ashes.
But the right-armer was never going to be able to play all five Tests and even though the Aussies have enjoyed an eight-day break between the first and second matches, it was decided to give Pattinson even more rest so he’s ready to go for the third Test in Leeds.
“James has come back off a really long lay-off, a really serious operation. We want to make sure he’s cherry-ripe for the next three or four years,” Paine said on Tuesday. “In the past we’ve got him back, keep using him and keep bowling him and eventually he’s broken again.
“We’re really lucky we’ve got two bowlers (Starc and Hazlewood) on the sidelines who are world-class.
“He’s available for selection but we’ve decided to rest him for this game to make sure his long-term future is in really good shape.
“It was always going to be one way or the other — (Pattinson) would miss this Test and be fresher for the third Test or he has this one after the long break and doesn’t play in the third.”
But even though Starc and Hazlewood are top-calibre bowlers, Warne believes it’s dangerous to bring them into the side without any recent red-ball form against international teams under their belt.
While the Spin King would have kept the same XI from Edgbaston, Paine said conditions and “gut feel” will dictate which of the two quicks waiting in the wings will be given the nod at Lord’s.
“Mitch is seen more as a strike weapon but he’s been working really hard on his control. There’s not set combinations,” Paine said.
“We’ll just come in the morning, have a look (at the conditions) and go with a bit of a gut feel.
“We’re not always going to get it right, but you try and make the best possible decision that you can when you have a look at the conditions that you’re faced with.
“If you look at Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood’s records at Lord’s it’s a good venue for one of those to play and be confident in the fact they can bowl really well here.”
Starc and Hazlewood had every right to be disappointed at having to carry the drinks for the first Test. Starc was the leading wicket-taker at the World Cup with 27 scalps and took 10 wickets in his most recent Test against Sri Lanka last summer, while Hazlewood was rested from the World Cup to ensure he was fully fit for the Ashes.
But despite their exclusions at Edgbaston, Paine lauded the pair’s attitude behind the scenes.
“We’ve been really impressed with both of them. We’ve had Josh Hazlewood on the A tour the whole time priming himself to play in the first Test and when he missed he out they were obviously both disappointed,” Paine said.
“They’re both excellent team men and it’s always nice from a captaincy and leadership point of view when you’ve got two senior players — and they are world-class — left out, they cop it on the chin and run drinks and train their backsides off in lunch hours and tea breaks. It sets a really good example for the rest of our team.
“We’re absolutely rapt with the way they’ve gone about it and whichever one of those two we unleash tomorrow they’re certainly ready to go.”