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Cricket news - Kurtis Patterson belatedly lives up to promise
Kurtis Patterson has been around Australian cricket for a long time. In November 2011, he became the youngest batsman in Australian first-class history to make a century on debut. He was 18 years and 206 days old at the time. His record-breaking ton came for New South Wales against Western Australia at the SCG, with Simon Katich at the other end when he reached the three-figure mark.
It was a strong NSW line-up with veteran opener Phil Jaques at the top of the order and the seasoned likes of Ben Rohrer, Trent Copeland and Peter Nevill in the mix. The only reason Patterson even got a look in was because Nic Maddinson had been picked for Australia A while the likes of David Warner, Phil Hughes, Michael Clarke and Usman Khawaja were preparing for the Test against New Zealand in Brisbane.
And despite becoming the talk of the nation and an overnight sensation, the lanky left-hander wouldn't play another first-class match for two years. He just wasn't good enough to force his way through the incessant batting riches available in the state. Patterson's next outing at the same level, at which he'd started so brilliantly, came against the touring England team in a warm-up match at the SCG.
He was part of a Cricket Australia Invitation XI that included the likes of Aaron Finch, Ed Cowan and Callum Ferguson. He got only five in the first innings but hung around for 82 balls to make 22 in the second against a bowling attack led by Stuart Broad and which included Steve Finn and Graeme Swann. It was then that he finally made a return to the NSW ranks, by which time Katich and Jaques were both gone, Khawaja had moved base to Queensland, and the likes of Warner and Steve Smith had become mainstays in the Clarke-led Australian Test team.
Patterson would go on to cement his place in the team too, though he never quite lived up to the lofty expectations that'd been created following his dream debut. To the extent that over the next five seasons, he would manage all of five centuries in 102 innings, despite averaging over 40 and scoring 26 half-centuries. Some might say, perhaps he was just too scared to score a ton again at the risk of being dropped for two years. Patterson would also see a number of middle-order batsmen, who didn't quite make the dramatic first impression that he had, get picked for Australia in that time.
It just so happened that the 26-year-old would somehow regain his century-making touch at a time when the rest of Australia had suddenly become impotent at it. Though his promotion over those already picked in the squad before his twin tons at Hobart against the Sri Lankan attack did create a stir, Patterson showed they were no fluke with a maiden Test ton at the Manuka Oval on Saturday.
It did come against a hapless Sri Lankan attack, already left ragged by Joe Burns and Travis Head, on a flat track. But Patterson had kind of lived up to the promise, even if slightly belatedly. A lot has changed in Australia cricket between his two significant milestones though.
They're probably going through their roughest period since the 1980s, and Patterson is now among the mainstays in the NSW dressing-room. He plays under Jaques, the head NSW coach, for his state. And on this occasion in Canberra, Katich was at the other end of the ground, up in the media centre alongside Copeland, who's still a regular at NSW, and made it a point to shoot a video of his teammate reaching the landmark.
What hadn't changed was his parents' reaction to seeing their son score a maiden century. Back in 2011 at the SCG, his father Brad had spoken about being left shaking. "I've just stopped shaking about an hour ago, it's unbelievable," he'd said seven or so years ago. On Saturday, it was his mother Dana's turn to be left shaking. "I'm shaking a lot, my voice is quivering and I'm just so excited for Kurtis, it's a dream come true," she said.
Like the Pattersons and Katich, Copeland too was around at the Manuka Oval as he'd been at the SCG. And if anything, he would match the parents' excitement by getting onto the media terrace and shooting a video of Patterson crossing over for the third run to reach his ton and then tweet it.
The beanpole NSW swing bowler, who played three Tests for Australia, in fact even showed up in the nets on the eve of the Test, bowling and troubling a number of the top-order batsmen, including Harris and Labuschagne.
"What do we have here?" Patterson would exclaim as he spotted Copeland after walking into the practice area on Thursday. That is before the two old friends tested each other out under the searing Canberra sun for 20 minutes or so.
On Saturday, a clearly elated Copeland would talk about that other thing about Patterson that hadn't changed-the youngster's penchant for perfection. And you could get a sense of that in the nets, as he worked on getting his front-foot further out than he usually does against pace, spin. Copeland - who would also reveal the basis of Patterson's nickname, "spoon" because of his oddly-shaped body with the long limbs with the not-so big head on top.
Those who've seen him bat for a while reveal how he's also remained arguably the most disdainful puller of the cricket ball in the country. It was a facet of his batting that came through over and over again in his unbeaten 107, courtesy the tired Lankan attack, which kept testing out the tall left-hander's skills against the rising ball. And he kept swatting them away with the kind of contempt that Virender Sehwag used to have for finger-spinners.
The way Patterson sets up with his long levers, and the front-foot only marginally striding forward, bowlers will be tempted to target his pads with a fuller length, and he can expect the likes of James Anderson to do just that if he does make it to the Ashes, which seems likely now. Like most tall batsmen, he thrives on utilising his reach to dismiss length deliveries even if they are away from his body without having to use his feet. The swinging ball will test his natural tendency to stay back.
For now, Patterson will go back to the NSW dressing-room, a Test player, and someone who'll be the one now making space for a youngster whenever he's away on international duty. His real challenge though will start now.
The Dukes ball will throw new questions over the next four Sheffield Shield matches, and more so when he goes to England later this year. Considering the hard work he's put in to get here, you somehow expect him to be ready. Kurtis Patterson looks good to be around Australian cricket for much longer now.
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