JLT Sheffield Shield 2018-19
Fiery duel fuels Patto's Test claims
Captivating contest between “two competitive animals” has speedster edging towards Test return, according to fellow Shield players
11 December 2018, 10:07 AM AEST
After Marcus Stoinis engaged him in the domestic season's most memorable one-on-one encounter, Sheffield Shield teammates and opponents alike have declared James Pattinson ready for a return to Test cricket.
Stoinis and Pattinson went head to head in a captivating duel on day four of Victoria's JLT Sheffield Shield clash with Western Australia at the MCG.
Both individual and overall contests ended in stalemates but Monday's final day was far from a fizzer.
Pattinson smelt blood with his former Victorian teammate Stoinis at the crease as the Warriors slumped to 4-35, spearing in a series of bouncers before feigning to shoulder barge him as he ran a two.
Stoinis held his own in the fiery battle despite copping one to the groin, as a leering Pattinson mocked his exaggerated demeanour. The right-hander went on to smash six sixes, including one off Pattinson, in an entertaining 85 as WA clung on for a draw.
After all the introspection Australian cricket has had in recent months, here was a gripping battle played in an ultra-competitive but ultimately, Stoinis confirmed, cordial atmosphere.
"That spirit that he shows and how fired up he gets - even some of our boys said it's bloody tough to play against but you'd love him in your team," the allrounder said of Pattinson.
"It was a good battle, we were having a good crack at each other.
"He said he'd been looking forward to bowling to me for six years. It was pretty funny.
"I love his competitive nature, I love playing with him and I love him as a bloke.
"We were - not getting stuck into each other - but there were two competitive animals going at it."
Two competitive gorillas, according to Stoinis' more vivid later graphic description on the Instagram video recapping their duel that had nearly 350,000 views within a few hours across all platforms.
Former Test quick Mitchell Johnson, who'd been among those to criticise Mitchell Starc for his body language during Australia's first Test defeat to India, was among the commenters voicing his approval.
"'Stoin' was a part of our team for a long time, it's almost like a brotherly feel when you play against someone you used to play with," Victoria skipper Travis Dean said.
"It's always fun and there's always feisty battles within it. He made 85 and batted really well."
Dean confirmed Pattinson, on the mend from serious back surgery, is still on bowling restrictions but believes it's only a matter of time before he's back wearing his Baggy Green.
"He had a limit - him and the coaches know that limit," said the opener, who made his captaincy debut in the absence of Peter Handscomb.
"I don't know if he's still supposed to be at 80 per cent or what but he was getting them through pretty quickly.
"His first spell of the first innings was as quick as I've seen.
"If he can keep that up for a consistent period, he's going to be tough to hold out of the Test team."
Pattinson, who now has nine wickets at 33 in his four games back for Victoria, has previously stressed he doesn't want to be rushed back into the rigours of Test cricket as he targets a return for next year's Ashes.
But, as Stoinis notes, his superb Test bowling numbers of 70 wickets at 26 (a mark only bettered among the current Australia bowlers by Pat Cummins' bowling average of 25) are a reminder of how dangerous he is at his best.
"I don't know if people forget how good he is – he hasn't played for a while but he's had a serious Test career already," Stoinis said of Pattinson, who hasn't played for Australia since February 2016.
"As a bowler he'll be eyeing off Test cricket, he's more than good enough. He's dominated Test cricket, he was one of the superstars of world cricket.
"I'm sure he's eyeing that off. What he's got going on and how his body is going is another question.
"If his body holds up to it and that's what he wants to do, I've got no doubt he'll be playing Test cricket."
Pattinson is set to link with KFC Big Bash club Brisbane Heat after crossing from the Melbourne Renegades over the winter, with coach Dan Vettori expressing excitement about his all-round – and not just his fast-bowling - capabilities.
Stoinis meanwhile looks set to be touch and go to be ready to bowl for the start of the Melbourne Stars’ BBL season after rolling his ankle warming up during the Shield game at the MCG.
WACA head physio Nick Jones said Stoinis had suffered a moderate ligament injury.
"Marcus will require a brief period of rehabilitation before looking to return to bowling in the coming 1-2 weeks for the BBL period," said Jones.