James Pattinson eyes Test return in South Africa

Inspired by the heroics of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle in the Ashes, James Pattinson has set his sights on an Australian return on February's tour of South Africa, and welcomes the competition for spots in Michael Clarke's attack.

An automatic choice before withdrawing from the Ashes in England with a back stress fracture after the second Test at Lord's, Pattinson made his competitive comeback to bowling for club team Dandenong in the Victorian Premier League at the weekend.

He bowled seven overs, taking two wickets, and is now eyeing a first appearance of the season for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League on December 30.

Pattinson, 23, has been present around the Australian team during the summer, and while Johnson, Harris and Siddle appear locked in for the forseeable future, he has identified the series against the world No.1 Proteas as his chance to push for a Test return.

"I am aiming to get to South Africa, and that's probably the end goal with these few [Big Bash] games," said Pattinson, who has taken 47 wickets from his 12 Tests at an average of 26.42. "Hopefully I'll play a few one-dayers then go to South Africa but I want to really try and earn my spot in the team. I know Mitch and Ryan and 'Sidds' have cemented their spots now so it's going to be tough to get back in. That's the great thing about it. You don't want an easy ride.

"We've got that competitive edge at training ... everyone gets on really well and shares each other's success, but at the same time we're vying for spots. That brings out the best in all of us."

Pattinson was naturally envious of the Test trio as they devastated England's batting line-up in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and celebrated their Ashes triumph. But he knows time is on his side.

"I would have loved to be out there winning an Ashes series but I've still got 10 years until I'm the same age as Mitch and 'Ryano' and they're bowling at their peak," he said. "Sometimes you get caught up in the moment and you feel hard done by but I think you've got to look further than that and really feel good for the guys doing the job at the moment because they deserve everything they get."

Pattinson could not help but lick his lips, too, at the barrage of short-pitched bowling sent England's way, and the verbal warfare between the teams.

"It was good viewing, and I was wishing I was running in there and hitting 'Broady' [Stuart Broad] in the head or something like that," he said, laughing. "You watch that and you want to be out there because as a fast bowler that's your bread and butter. It's fantastic to see the bouncers around, helmets being hit, and it's good to see the sledging and stuff ... some people say it's not cricket but it's always been around. Anyway you can get that mental edge over your opponent you have to use it. We copped a lot over in England."

Pattinson took seven wickets in the Ashes there before breaking down but recognised signs that the tourists' batsmen could struggle in Australia.

"As a bowling group we always thought we had the edge on them over there," he said. "If you look at it they've won the series 3-0 but never scored over 400 once. We wanted to try and keep Alastair Cook to a minimum of runs, and we did that pretty well.

"We saw signs that we could really take it to these blokes and felt that once they got over here it would be a different game. The wickets were pretty slow and low, and I know they were saying they wanted a faster wicket but in this series it hasn't really looked like it, has it?"

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