Some things can never make sense, even with the benefit of time. The decision to include Little James on Oasis’s fourth studio album, 2000’s Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, is a perfect example of this. And yet the idea of adding a plinky plonky piano song with lyrics for kids from a novice writer inbetween ‘Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is’ (a Doors rip off with the volume turned up to 11) and ‘Gas Panic’ (a rather splendid psychedelic wigout) seems perfectly sensible compared to The Day The Selectors Went Mad. We are, of course, referring to the incredible case of the Australian roof-tiler who came over to England for a spot of County Cricket and found himself representing the national side.
Imagine if you lived in Grimsby. With the obvious exception of the World Championship Pan Fighting from Cleethorpes, it doesn’t exactly sound like a land of opportunities.
And so it was that the Pattinson family, young Darren in tow, decided to emigrate to Australia in search of a new life, one that included the possibility of bumping into Dr Karl Kennedy at the local supermarket. Darren played club cricket in Melbourne, doing a decent enough job to eventually earn an opportunity for an injury-ravaged Victoria, albeit at the grand old age of 27. Despite not exactly setting the world on fire, he did enough to catch the attention of Nottinghamshire, joining them for the 2008 season based on the recommendation of David Hussey.
And it was here that the gin-related selectorial madness began. Pattinson made an excellent start to the season, picking up 29 wickets at 20.86, catching the attention of the three or four people that actually follow County cricket. At the same time, England were going through something of a fast bowling evolution. The 2005 generation were all either injured or out of favour, with England moving on to an attack of Anderson, Broad, Sidebottom and Panesar for the visit of New Zealand at the start of the summer, with largely successful results.
The first Test against South Africa continued that trend, the quartet bowling out the visitors for 247 to make them follow-on in reply to England’s 593/8. The match was eventually drawn, the tourists making 393/3 in their second innings.
For the second game England had a number problems to address. First of these was the return to fitness of one Andrew Flintoff, who came back into the side at the expense of Paul Collingwood. The second was a potential injury to Ryan Sidebottom, covered by Chris Tremlett. And then came a third issue, James Anderson suffering from a stiff back.
A new quick bowler was required. But whom? Hoggard and Harmison had both been ditched following a disastrous first Test in New Zealand. Plunkett and Mahmood hadn’t been seen for some time, mainly due to them being utter bunk. Simon Jones was either crippled or inbetween spells of being crippled. Nope, it was time to call for a former roof-tiler.
On the morning of the match Sidebottom was ruled out. The selectors decided that Tremlett wasn’t actually what they wanted in a replacement and went for Pattinson, ruining his planned weekend trip to Alton Towers. The media went apeshit, led by the never backwards in coming forwards Ian Botham:
“The most illogical, pathetic and diabolical piece of selecting I’ve seen. The selectors have embarrassed English cricket. I want to hear a proper explanation for this, as do England fans around the country.”
Things weren’t helped by England getting blown away on the first day, being skittled for just 203. Pattinson batted at number eleven, below even Monty Panesar. He then opened the bowling, eventually dismissing Hashim Amla – a useful skill to have – with a full toss. Unfortunately that merely brought Ashwell Prince and AB de Villiers together at the crease as they added 212 for the fifth wicket. Pattinson eventually broke the partnership, having Prince caught behind for 149, finishing with reasonable enough figures of 2/95.
Unfortunately for England they were 319 runs behind after the first innings. Despite 60 from Alastair Cook and 67* from Stuart Broad, they were rolled over for 327, leaving South Africa nine runs to win. There was just time for one symbolic delivery from Pattinson, pushed away for an easy single to complete a ten-wicket victory.
The recriminations began immediately; Michael Vaughan and Peter Moores publicly defended Pattinson, but his name was conspicuously absent from England’s squad for the third Test, replaced by the fit-again Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Harmison. Even Pattinson admitted that his selection had been a mistake. That third Test would prove to be Vaughan’s final match for England; Moores wouldn’t last much longer, losing his job the following winter.
Poor old D-Patz returned to playing for Nottinghamshire and Victoria, now hamstrung somewhat by being considered an overseas player for the Sheffield Shield, spending the next four years being injured and re-qualifying as Australian, finally being registered as a local for this year’s Big Bash. At the same time he became an overseas player for County cricket, resulting in the probable end of his time in England.
Meanwhile, his little brother James, born and raised entirely in Australia, made his way into the Victoria squad, proceeding through to full international honours with Australia and what looks like being a genuine, non-shambolic Test career. Of course, this wasn’t the first time that Little James had cast a shadow over proceedings. In true cabaret fashion, let’s finish with a song: