When the master plan for English cricket was unveiled this year a major section was kept secret. The elements that the England and Wales Cricket Board were willing to disclose were all too obvious: £14m grants to community clubs, subsidies for 1,0000 coaches, £1m to the National Performance Centre.
Yesterday the hidden, devilishly cunning part of the strategy was revealed. Pick cricketers that Australia do not want. It cuts out the middle men and the hard work. In the meantime, ignore the carefully devised courses, the academies, the vaunted National Performance Centre. Discard, too, the men who have been serving apprenticeships in county ranks. Forget all that, brush it aside as if it were so much bindweed clogging up the real system.
Come in Darren Pattinson. "Who," as somebody texted yesterday, "the hell is Darren Pattinson?" The trouble with Darren Pattinson is that he is, technically speaking by birth and the origin of his passport, British. The trouble with the selectors is that they picked him.
In tabloid-speak, his presence in the England team was a bombshell which sent shockwaves through cricket. Bowlers who were on the fringes of the team and had been led to believe they had a real chance of playing must have been left nonplussed.
Matthew Hoggard, whose home ground is Headingley, was one of those whose claims were overlooked. He said on BBC's Test Match Special yesterday: "I might have been a bit upset when I saw that Ryan Sidebottom had been forced out and Darren Pattinson had got the nod. I have seen him bowl. I genuinely thought he was Australian. When I spoke to him he has an Australian accent. This is his first year and I thought he was over here on a Kolpak. Obviously not."
Obviously not indeed. Pattinson left in his wake not only Hoggard but also Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Chris Tremlett. There were other seamers who had been there or thereabouts before, such as Graham Onions, good enough for England A only weeks ago, Sajid Mahmood, Tim Bresnan, Liam Plunkett.
The selectors went with their bizarre hunch yesterday morning and must have known they risked huge opprobrium. Pattinson has a muscular action, honed in the Melbourne suburbs, and has sharp, late, away swing. His story is that he spent years playing club cricket with some distinction, but no future, for Dandenong.
A flurry of injuries gave him an opportunity for Victoria and he played six first-class state matches for them in two seasons. He was recommended to Nottinghamshire by their erstwhile overseas player, David Hussey, who knew he was of English origin, and the county took up the offer – partly because their opening bowlers, Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad would be wanted by England. It is not without a certain irony that when Sidebottom and Broad played for Nottinghamshire this season, Pattinson was omitted.
As Hoggard said, Pattinson is doing it in the here and now, 29 wickets at 21 compared to Hoggard's 29 at 24. At least he was born in England, unlike three of their players yesterday, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Tim Ambrose. Until recently, Pattinson was tiling roofs in Australia. If the three lions meant so much he might have been knocking down walls trying to reach England.