Physiotherapist Alex Kountouris checks out James Pattinson. Photo: Getty Images
YOUNG spearhead James Pattinson has broken down with a serious side strain that threatens to end his Test summer.
Pattinson, the most hostile fast bowler in the nation at the moment, looks likely to miss the final Test in Perth and there were grave fears on Saturday night the injury could also sideline him for the forthcoming series against Sri Lanka.
On a gripping day in Adelaide, Pattinson grimaced after bowling one ball of his second over with the new ball, and walked from the field to consult physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.
He reported pain in his side and was sent for scans on the area known to fast bowlers as the ''grunt muscle''. Medical staff were awaiting the results of the scans but Pattinson's age (22) and history of long-term injuries suggests a conservative approach will be taken with him.
His injury means Mitchell Johnson could be recalled to the Test squad after a year in the Test wilderness.
The selectors will consider playing four fast men at the WACA Ground.
Fellow left-armer Mitchell Starc, 12th man for the first two Tests against South Africa, will remain in the squad. Johnson, whose two best Test hauls were taken at the WACA Ground, will be considered along with New South Wales quick Josh Hazlewood.
Cricket Australia has a platoon of pacemen at the ready in case injury strikes, including Hazlewood and Tasmania's Jackson Bird.
Though Johnson has not taken bags of first-class wickets this season - he has 13 scalps at 30 from four games - opponents have reported the 31-year-old's potent mix of pace and swing has returned.
The stars have aligned for Johnson at the WACA Ground in the past. He tore through South Africa with 8-61 in 2008 and enjoyed rare success over England with 6-38 in 2010.
Pattinson has endured a wretched run with injuries, and this setback will inevitably renew the focus on CA's injury management system and its rest and rotation policy.
But Pattinson had the ideal preparation with four Sheffield Shield games before the first Test of the summer. He bowled 53 overs and took five wickets in the first Test in Brisbane, where he was Australia's most potent and aggressive bowler, and 9.1 in Adelaide.
Captain Michael Clarke looked after his front-liners in thankless conditions by using eight bowlers on the second day of the match.
Pattinson's departure meant more was asked of Peter Siddle, who bowled 30.5 overs including a heroic spell of six overs for 2-17 with the old ball on Saturday morning, of which four runs came from a snorting bouncer that was gloved down the leg side by Graeme Smith.
Spinner Nathan Lyon toiled through 44 overs, and performed an admirable containing role as well as grabbing two wickets. Between the first and second Tests, bowling coach Ali de Winter said there were no warning signs to suggest any of the quicks needed a rest and Pattinson said he was free of niggles. Nor did he want a rest. ''At the moment I've got no soreness in my body, so I want to keep playing, I don't want to get rested,'' he said.
''But I suppose there'll come a time when I'll have a high workload and it'll look like I'm going to get rested as we've spoken about. I'm happy for that, I put the faith in the medical staff's hands and if they think it's a good idea for me to get rested one Test then so be it.''
During last summer's SCG Test, Pattinson broke down with a stress fracture in his foot. It later emerged the coaches and selectors had been warned by sports scientists that he was in the danger zone for injury because of his workload.
He also came home from the West Indies in April with a back injury, and missed the Australia A tour of England with soreness.
When 19-year-old Pat Cummins returned from the Champions League with a stress injury in his back this month, Pattinson expressed the hope that such setbacks were behind him. Depending on the results of the scans on his side, it seems there is no such luck for the exciting young paceman.