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Australia's Ashes attack takes shape

Pattinson suffers injury 'setback' but fellow quicks Starc and Hazlewood recovering well ahead of the first Test at the Gabba

Injured pacemen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are on track for the first Magellan Ashes Test next month, but Victorian James Pattinson has suffered a setback in his push for a Test recall according to Australia's stand-in coach David Saker.

Pattinson was ruled out of the recent Test tour of Bangladesh as a precaution due to inflammation in his back and he's also missed the start of the JLT One-Day Cup for Victoria.

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It had been anticipated the right-armer would be fit for the back-end of the one-day tournament but Cricket Australia medical staff are expected to provide an official update later this week after consultation with Bushrangers medicos.

Given the inflammation is around the area where Pattinson has previously suffered a stress fracture, medical staff have taken a cautious approach so far and they'd be reluctant to take any risks with the 27-year-old, who's played just five Tests in the past four years due to injury.


Even if Pattinson were to prove his fitness for the first Ashes Test in late November, he would only be an outside chance of earning a spot in the XI given Starc, Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are all on track to play.

Starc (foot) and Hazlewood (side) are recovering well from their injuries and are expected to fine tune their preparations by playing two JLT Sheffield Shield games leading into the Gabba Test, while Starc will return to competitive cricket on Friday in the one-day cup.

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Cummins, who has returned home to Australia having led the fast bowling attack in the recent ODI series against India, will also likely play two Shield matches before the Gabba Test. 


"Three of them we know are on track, but James Pattinson's had a little bit of a setback," fast bowling coach David Saker said of the 'Big Four' quicks.

"We're not sure how bad (Pattinson's injury is) at the moment.

"Josh Hazlewood is on track to play the first Test, Mitchell Starc is going really well and Patty is obviously flying. He's going to have a bit of a rest and then heat up into Shield cricket.

"I think it's really good for the whole Australian team that they've got three Shield games. Whether the fast bowlers play all three of those, we'll wait and see."


While there has been media hype surrounding the possibility of the 'Big Four' playing in the same team this summer, that prospect appeared unlikely even before Pattinson's latest setback.

The excellent return to Tests from Cummins this year makes him a near certainty to partner mainstays Starc and Hazlewood, while spinner Nathan Lyon's excellent 2017 means he'll take the fourth bowling spot.

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And given it's Australia's batting that remains their biggest concern ahead of the summer, selectors would be reluctant to drop an extra batting option just to accommodate a fifth frontline bowler.

If Pattinson's injury is worse than first thought, Nathan Coulter-Nile looms as the next quick in line should the trio of NSW quicks break down over the Test summer.

The performance of the Western Australian was the major highlight of Australia's 1-4 ODI drubbing in India and teammate Kane Richardson says he's ready to make a long-awaited Test debut.

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"He's pushing his case for higher honours in Test cricket this year, I think," Richardson said last week. "If there's any injuries or you're resting and rotating, he's probably the next one in.

"When you sat down a month ago and thought about the Ashes, you probably wouldn't think of him being next in. (Jason) Behrendorff and (Chadd) Sayers and those kinds of guys are probably at the top of your mind and you forget about him because he hasn't played.

"But when you actually watch him go about his work, he's a serious bowler. It's pretty good for Australia to have someone like that waiting in the wings."


2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series


First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets


Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets


Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets


Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets


Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets


ODI Series v England


First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets


Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets


Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets


Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets


Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF


Prime Minister's XI


PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets


T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series


First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets


Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets


Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets


Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13


Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16


Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18


Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21