Pattinson fires Ashes warning
JAMES Pattinson has fired an ominous warning shot at England after Australia's Ashes wildcard decimated NSW at Drummoyne Oval.
Pattinson's blazing five-wicket haul yesterday secured Victoria a guaranteed first-place Sheffield Shield finish and sent the Blues into a potential last-round dogfight, where they might need to beat Tasmania in Hobart next week to book their place in the final to be played at Melbourne's Junction Oval.
After collapsing badly in both innings to lose by 63 runs, NSW are set to suffer the double blow of losing star spinner Stephen O'Keefe (hamstring) for their final-round clash.
Western Australia are the team who could bounce NSW out of the competition, provided they can finish off Tasmania on Friday and then beat Queensland at the WACA next week.
In a low-scoring match dominated by the bowlers which cast further doubt over the credentials of Australian batsmen against the swinging Duke's ball, Pattinson stood out with his rout of 5-25 in 12 overs which included the scalp of Test batsman Kurtis Patterson.
Pattinson has virtually had his spine reconstructed after chronic back injuries but after rampaging through NSW with rapid pace, he revealed he would be heading to England's county competition to sharpen his weaponry for a potential Ashes assault.
"I'll go and play some county cricket with Nottingham. That looks like it'll be on the cards for a bit," said Pattinson.
"I know there's an (Australia) A tour as well. That will be my goal to maybe get picked on that and just play as much cricket as I can over there before hopefully getting picked on that (Ashes).
"There's a long way to go. We've secured a Shield final now for Victoria, so I'll be doing everything possible to help them win that Shield."
Arguably Pattinson's biggest rival for the final vacancy in Australia's Ashes fast bowling arsenal was bowling alongside him on Thursday, with Peter Siddle also claiming three NSW wickets in a strong display.
Pattinson - who hasn't played Test cricket since 2016 following spinal fusion surgery - admits proof of whether he's in fact ready for an Ashes campaign will be in the pudding over the coming two weeks, including the Shield final.
"(My back) is feeling really good. I haven't bowled the overs that I probably will coming up. Only time will tell once I start bowling those overs whether my body can hold up to it," he said.
"All is tracking well at the moment but it's a work in progress and something you've got to keep managing."
Meanwhile, one of the key pieces in Australia's World Cup defence Mitchell Starc underwent a Cricket Australia fitness test on Thursday under the watchful eye of CA strength and conditioning coach Andrew Weller.
Starc attempted to return to bowling last week but didn't quite feel right - however, it's understood he remains on track for World Cup selection.
On Thursday he completed a series of timed running drills on an outside field at Drummoyne Oval.
The issue for Starc and his World Cup hopes will be he won't have match-practice under his belt, and he has been a bowler in the past that's often taken a while to find rhythm.
However, Starc was the player of the last World Cup and one of the most lethal white-ball bowlers of all time.