Domain Test Series v New Zealand
Ponting backs Pattinson for Boxing Day return
Test great believes Vics speedster is the best choice to play at his home ground in the second Test as Josh Hazlewood's replacement
Sam Ferris at Perth Stadium
15 December 2019, 09:28 AM AEST
Test great Ricky Ponting has called for James Pattinson to replace the injured Josh Hazlewood for the Boxing Day Test.
Hazlewood has been ruled out of the second Test against New Zealand after he left the field in the final session of day two having bowled just eight balls, with the paceman describing the issue as a "low-grade hamstring tear" to his left leg.
With the tight schedule in mind (the second and third Tests against NZ are back-to-back affairs starting on Dec 26 and Jan 3) and some outstanding back-up options, head coach Justin Langer on Sunday declared Hazlewood's unavailability, leaving the obvious question of his replacement.
Waiting in the wings this summer have been Pattinson and Queensland's Michael Neser, but Ponting likes the Victorian on his home turf of the MCG to replace Hazlewood.
"James Pattinson is the obvious one to come in," Ponting told cricket.com.au. "I think the Australians would have been tossing up whether to play Pattinson or Starc in the first Test in Brisbane and then 'Patto' ruled himself out with that suspension that he got.
"Neser has been around the squad but I think going into Melbourne, Patto's home ground, he's played a lot of cricket there, he probably understands the conditions better than Michael Neser does.
"He's the obvious one and I think he will play."
Ponting was on deck when Pattinson made his Test debut against New Zealand at the Gabba in 2011 as a raw 21-year-old who captured 5-27 in the second innings.
But in the eight years that have passed since that maiden Test, Pattinson has played just 18 more Tests due to a series devastating of injuries, predominantly concentrated on his back.
It led to the Victorian undergoing radical surgery in November 2017 which allowed him to make his Test return during this winter's Ashes series in England, where he played two Tests and captured five wickets in the 2-2 draw.
Ponting has watched Pattinson's progression closely and is impressed by the energy and aggression the right-armer brings.
"I've liked him from the start of his career," he said. "I was lucky enough to play in his first Test match and he's just like a big bull, charging in and wants to bowl fast.
"He's aggressive and has the ability to swing the new ball as well.
"If he does come into the side he might not take the new ball – that would be given to Starc and Cummins you'd imagine – but I love his competitiveness and the fact that he'll just keep coming and coming.
"If you're batting against him you certainly know you're in the contest."
With Hazlewood going down and the prospect of flatter pitches at the MCG and SCG, Ponting expects the Australians will consider drafting in an allrounder for the final two Tests.
Mitch Marsh, who played the final Ashes Test in England, is still recovering from a broken hand and while he is tracking to play in the Perth Scorchers' opening KFC BBL match against the Sydney Sixers next week at the SCG, he is unlikely to be bowling until at least the Scorchers' second match on December 21 in Perth.
Langer said the West Australian's progress would be carefully monitored, while Peter Siddle could also be drafted into the squad.
If Marsh is unavailable for selection as Ponting imagines, next in line could be Melbourne Stars allrounder Marcus Stoinis, but the former Australia captain believes the Australians will ultimately elect to keep a similar squad and rely more on the spin of Marnus Labuschagne.
"The obvious choice, Mitchell Marsh, is out injured as we know so they'll have to look long and hard to find someone that's ready to play a Test match," he said.
"It might just mean when they get to Melbourne guys like Labuschagne has to do a lot more bowling and play as a spinning-allrounder as opposed to picking a fast-bowling allrounder.
"Stoinis is probably the only one around the traps at the moment who could come in, Cam Green we've been talking about for a while but he's not bowling because of an injury.
"Jack Wildermuth is barely playing for Queensland so Stoinis is the obvious one but I think that would be unlikely."
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