Fresh after recuperating from an abdominal injury and a promising tour of the UK with the A side, Australia speedster James Pattinson is up and running to perform in his first Ashes series, starting with the first Test against England on July 10 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
"The emotions will be high as we reach closer to the first Test match, there will be some nerves, but we as a team have got a point to prove. We have had many doubters in the past one month, so everyone in the group will be fired up to prove them wrong," Pattinson told the media at Taunton on Friday evening.
The Australian batsmen had a decent workout at County Ground in Taunton in a pre-Ashes warm-up against Somerset with Shane Watson scoring a scorching 90 and Phil Hughes scoring an unbeaten 76 in the first innings. Pattinson feels the team's batting is in good shape leading into the all-important Test series.
"Shane Watson is looking great at the opening position, he was striking the ball well in the first innings. It's just fantastic for us that someone with his caliber is right at the top of the batting order. Phil Hughes, too is looking in good shape with the bat and he can be dangerous player in the top-3 positions," he said.
Pattinson, who was Australia's most successful bowler against Somerset with seven wickets, says he does not strive for sheer pace at all times.
"I don't try and bowl at 100miles per hour, all I try and do is bowl in the right areas. Usually when you try to bowl too fast it doesn't really happen but it's interesting when your rhythm is going great then the speed gun reflects the fast pace. Personally for me, bowling has been good. It's better that we've faced such conditions with the wicket not really offering much in a practice game rather than in the first Test. We can bowl well when the ball is new and swinging, but we have to work as a team together when we're bowling under sunny skies and the wicket becomes flat," he said.
Australian batting revolved around Michael Clarke in the past year with the skipper scoring the most runs in 2012 - 1595 runs at 106.33 in 11 Tests. Pattinson feels Clarke, who has returned from the back injury that kept him out of all the games in the ICC Champions Trophy, will remain precious to the team. "Michael was fine while batting against Somerset. Last year, he was in the best form of his career. Not only his batting but his leadership on the ground is invaluable for us," he added.
The 23-year-old feels England skipper Alastair Cook will be the 'big fish' this Ashes. "We've played against England a lot in the last one year and we know their players' strengths and weaknesses. We know that Alastair Cook leads by example and when he gets going England do well. So getting rid of him early in the innings will be very crucial for us."
The Melbourne-born pacer lauded new coach Darren Lehmann and says the former left-hander will play a vital role as a mentor in the dressing room. "Darren was a great help when he was with the Australia A team earlier this month. He comes to you and tells you exactly what he's thinking. He has got a fantastic cricket brain. He helps us young guys learn quickly by continuously talking about the game. He just tells us to back ourselves, don't doubt anything and play aggressively," he added.
Australia's previous international assignment in England was a series to forget for them as they were thrashed 4-0 in the five-ODI series in June-July, 2012. Pattinson, though, feels he has moved on from that poor run and will be at top of his game in the 5-Test series.
"Last year I was bowling from wide of the crease to the English batsmen in the one-dayers but they were strong off their pads. Also I was hampered by a few injuries. But I've played much more cricket from that time and I've realized that bowling from closer to the stumps, you can get the batsmen to play a lot straighter and that is what I'll try and do. I am in good rhythm now and have no excuse to bowl badly this time around," he concluded.