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July 12, 2013

For the love of Vicious

Matt Cleary
Sids: gets people on their bike, mate  © Getty Images
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So I was sitting there on the couch with my man Simsy, watching the early skirmishes of day one of the first Ashes Test from Trent Bridge in Nottingham. It was about 9.30 in the evening, Sydney time, and we were luxuriating after a fine feed of roast pork, nursing glasses of shiraz. And, in the ways of men, particularly men of a sporting bent, we were stroking our mental goat beards and opining.

The subject of our plonk-fuelled quorum was Peter Siddle, the Victorian woodsman whose opening four overs had just gone for 27 runs. Joe Root and Jon Trott had picked him off easily, the latter, particularly, getting in behind him, and across his stumps with imperious ease. And in our know-it-all way, we two sports journalists and goat-beard strokers, made a case against the feisty big rust-nut from Gippsland. It would not have made edifying listening had Sids been hiding in the cupboard.

"There's a sameness about his work on unhelpful decks," said I. "He's not doing enough in the air or off the wicket to trouble these top batsmen.

"I like him. He'll charge in all day. But I dunno… Ryan Harris, for mine."

"I agree," agreed Simsy. "But I'd probably opt for Jackson Bird as third seamer. If you can't do a lot off the wicket or in the air, you need deadly accuracy. The accuracy of a bloody metronome. And Bird has that. He'll come in all day, land it on your proverbial six-pence. Worked for McGrath."

I agreed: "Man will bloody bore them out. And one thing the Pom doesn't like, it's being bored. Look at Kevin Pietersen."

"He doesn't like being bored, Kevin Pietersen," said Simsy, twisting the top from another bottle of Barossa Valley shiraz. "Plus there's lots of swing in the air early here at Trent Bridge. Look how overcast it is. If you can't do a bit in these conditions it doesn't bode well for when the sun comes out, dries things up."

"I agree," I agreed. "And Big Sids' form in the lead-ups hasn't been flash. I know he's the fifth-best bowler in the world according to Statistics. I know that, Simsy, I know that. I like the man. Always will. But in these conditions I just like Ryan Harris more. You need to take a swag of wickets to beat these Englanders. We need to knock them over cheaply to give our batsmen something to bat at."

And so Siddle changed ends. And charged in in that indefatigable way of his. And he bowled Joe Root with a late-swinging sandshoe crusher.

"Got him, yesssss!" I exclaimed. "You beauty."

"Goodonya, Pete!" exclaimed Simsy. "You're a ripper."

"Bloody good nut," I said. "See how that swung late? Beautiful. Pitched up, right on the toes, swinging. Bloody beautiful."

"Very good nut," he agreed. "How good's Peter Siddle?"

"He's a ripper, Peter Siddle," I replied.

And so we watched the super-impressive Siddle tear through the Poms with an effective combination of full deliveries that subtly swung at speed. The man was at the stumps all day, at the batsmen, asking questions. And we poured each other glasses of red, and ate chocolate-coated liquorice, until England were all out and Siddle had five wickets for 50. And there was a period of silence and reflection as we rolled shiraz around in our mouths. And I said: "We know nothing about cricket."

"Agreed," agreed Simsy.

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Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Cleary
Matt Cleary reckons he watched more of the 1978-79 Ashes series than any eight-year-old. Despite this punishment - Geoff Boycott batting for days - Cleary was hooked. As a journalist he's written about sport, travel, beer, wine, swimming with stingrays in the Alice waters of Bora Bora, and touring Australia on a four-month lap, playing golf. Yet he counts doing ball-by-ball commentary for ESPNcricinfo as the most fun he's had with a keyboard. He writes for several of Australia's sports and travel magazines, notably Inside Sport, Inside Cricket, Golf Australia and Rugby League Week. @JournoMatCleary

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