Cricket-Rare run of fitness has Pattinson pinching himself

MELBOURNE, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Australia paceman James Pattinson is targeting back-to-back tests in the upcoming series against Pakistan and New Zealand as he savours a rare run of fitness heading into the home summer.

The 29-year-old's successful return during the Ashes in England was a feel-good story for Australian cricket and a triumph of perseverance for an outstanding bowler restricted to six tests in the past five years.

Pattinson was relieved to head home at the end of the series without having to contemplate another long spell of rehab.

"When I got back from England I sort of didn't know what to do because I'd usually be nursing a stress fracture or something like that," he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

"So, to rock up and have four days off and bowl again, I was like, 'What is this all about?'

"I think it's just things like that where you pinch yourself a little bit and go: 'This is good.'"

Seen as a potential 100-test cricketer when he broke into the Australia team as a fiery 21-year-old, Pattinson has managed only 19 tests in a career interrupted by frequent back problems.

He was picked for the first and third Ashes tests in England, where Australia drew the series 2-2 to retain the urn, and is now hoping to prove to selectors he is ready to stand up to the strain of back-to-back matches.

"I have been injury-free for the most part of a year now. The body is feeling good," he said.

"I think the next process for me, if I do get a chance in the test arena, is to try and play more back-to-back cricket now."

Pattinson is expected to be named in the test squad, set to be released this week, for the two-match series against Pakistan starting in Brisbane on Nov. 21.

There will be fierce competition among Pattinson and pace team mates Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood to be one of the three seamers likely to start at the Gabba.

Victoria paceman Pattinson will hope a few wickets against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield match in Melbourne this week can help his cause.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)