Aggressive Sidebottom raises his game
One of those victims was Jacob Oram, who applied himself gamely for a two-and-a-half hour 28, before Sidebottom undid him with a full-length outswinger that he nicked to slip. "He's the best bowler I've faced at the moment, and I'm pretty keen not to face him again," said Oram. "He's bowling at a good pace, and swings it enough to cause guys trouble. If you're able to swing it with accuracy, you're going to be tough to play, and that's the thing that strikes me the most about him. He's right at the top of his game, and right back where he was in New Zealand, unfortunately for us."
Sidebottom was his usual modest self when discussing his performance, but admitted that - as the first anniversary of his Test recall draws closer - he now sees himself as the leader of the England pack. "Any bowler should think like that," he said. "You're playing Test cricket and you should put pressure on yourself. I see it as a responsibility, and I guess I've been around a bit more than Broady and Jimmy [Anderson]. It's an added responsibility and one I'd like to take on."
It was Broad and Anderson who were England's main men on the first day, sharing five wickets between them, and Sidebottom admitted that there had been some friendly jibes in the dressing-room after he had swept into the action today. "The lads were taking the mickey, saying I'd burgled a few wickets after all their hard work yesterday, which I agree with," said Sidebottom. "I was bitterly disappointed with my performance yesterday, you'd like to back up Broady and Jimmy who bowled fantastically. New Zealand are strong in the middle order, but we think they got 50 runs too many in hindsight."
To Sidebottom's credit, he was quick to identify why his performance had been slightly off the boil on the first day, and with England's bowling coach, Ottis Gibson, on hand, he made amends immediately. "I didn't run in with my arms enough yesterday, because when you do that they go into position rather than just being lazy," he said. "But that sometimes happens, you can't bowl well all the time. Maybe I was trying too hard as well in the first Test [of the season] at Lord's. But I have no excuses, it was pretty poor from myself, and I wanted to come back today and bowl a bit better."
A feature of Sidebottom's performance today was the number of short balls he bowled, particularly to Oram, who was pushed onto the back foot before being drawn forward again for his dismissal. "Today was a plan to be more aggressive and bowl a few more bouncers," said Sidebottom, who suggested that Brendon McCullum in particular might receive a slightly more hostile reception when he comes out to bat in the second innings. "He's a good player and he took the momentum away from us, but we weren't as aggressive as we could be and we let him play a few front-foot shots. Although he's quite good at hooking and pulling, no batsmen like it. It puts them off their play and the way they move their feet."
England's day ended with Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss well placed in an unbeaten 68-run partnership, and Oram conceded that New Zealand were up against it in this match already. "We've got to make improvements or we're going to be wiped off the park," he said. "We didn't enter the game hoping for a draw and we're not playing for the draw at the moment, but they were probably as demanding as they were in New Zealand in the final two Tests there. They bowled with a lot more intent and the rewards came, but if the weather is overcast and drizzly, it'll be an opportunity to chip away."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo