May 27, 2008

How good is Sidebottom?

England's Roger Daltrey-lookalike seamer is in contention for the crown of the world's top fast bowler
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Good hair day: Sidebottom takes another at Lord's © Getty Images

When Ryan Sidebottom was slicing through New Zealand's raw top order back in March, Jeremy Coney, the former Kiwi captain, bemoaned that the batsmen were "making him look like Wasim Akram". He followed up with something along the lines of "and he's no Wasim Akram".

Coney's point was that New Zealand were batting ineptly, that Sidebottom was unworthy to be taking 24 wickets at 17, but his comment already seems dated. Sidebottom is the first pace bowler on England's team sheet and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Sidebottom isn't Wasim Akram and he never will be, but who is? Only two left-arm pace bowlers have ever taken more than 200 Test wickets: Wasim and Chaminda Vaas, who have taken 757 between them. That's more than the next five left-armers (Alan Davidson, Zaheer Khan, Trevor Goddard, Richard Collinge and Bruce Reid) put together. Garry Sobers, who bowled allsorts, is discounted from this list.

No England left-armer has ever taken 100 Test wickets. Bill Voce leads the way with 98, John Lever is next with 73, and Sidebottom is third with 63. So over the course of the next 12 months he ought to become England's greatest ever left-handed quick. Not bad for a bloke who, as a 14-year-old, was told he wasn't good enough by Yorkshire, and as a 23-year-old, by Duncan Fletcher.

But how good is he? Sidebottom has quickly become a cult figure in England because of his Roger Daltrey hair and, let's be honest, because of a drought of potential heroes. But he is also England's "main strike bowler", according to England's bowling coach Ottis Gibson in a forthcoming issue of the Wisden Cricketer. He is not just Mr Dependable (though he's that as well), not just the new Matthew Hoggard. He is Michael Vaughan's go-to bowler. It is some burden, though one he appears to relish.

Over the last 12 months, of pace bowlers, only South Africa's Dale Steyn has taken more wickets (78) than Sidebottom, whose entire career total of 63 has come in that time. (His debut Test back in 2001 was fruitless.) Steyn and Sidebottom will, fitness permitting, come head to head in six weeks' time or so, when South Africa play a four-Test series in England. It is a contest to decide global pace bowling's pre-eminent exponent. Brett Lee might just consider himself in the mix as well.

Even to think of Sidebottom as worthy of consideration is to undergo some severe head-shaking and skin-pinching. This is a man who, as previously mentioned, has been told on more than one occasion that he's not up to it. His selection in 2001 scarred his image to a point where he became something of a joke figure, an emblem of a failed domestic system that produced only trundlers ill-equipped to deal with the rigours of international cricket.

 
 
Sidebottom did transform himself, make no mistake. His success is a testament to the simple but underestimated virtues of hunger and application. He takes pride in his England cap, not in how much cash he might make out of Allen Stanford or the IPL
 

It's not that Duncan Fletcher was wrong to discard Sidebottom in 2001 but that it took until 2007 to recognise Sidebottom's transformation. There was a disconnect between Fletcher and the county game, a lack of trust and respect on both sides. That schism has been mended now and a player with Sidebottom's abilities, one hopes, will not be ignored again.

But Sidebottom did transform himself, make no mistake. His success is a testament to the simple but underestimated virtues of hunger and application. He takes pride in his England cap, not in how much cash he might make out of Allen Stanford or the IPL. He acknowledges that he wasn't ready for Test cricket in 2001, which itself throws up another question about the rigours of the county game.

Sidebottom has the capacity to bowl properly quick now, in the same 90mph bracket as Steyn, and he has the rat-like cunning and variations that every successful bowler must have in these bat-friendly times. He has developed the crucial nip-backer to the right-hander and he has learned how to bowl round the wicket, having observed RP Singh in England last year. He might also like to know, if he doesn't already, that Singh has got Mike Hussey four times - one to store in the memory bank for the 2009 Ashes.

It is still early days for Sidebottom. He has had success against West Indies and New Zealand, the two weakest batting line-ups in the world apart from Bangladesh. Against India and Sri Lanka he took 13 wickets at 48, though he did have five catches dropped by the wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, in those two series. Steyn has laid waste to every line-up he has come across. Yes, he has cashed in against Bangladesh but also against India and Pakistan. He has never played a Test in England but then he has a tidy attack to back him up. Sidebottom is part of a green England attack that, as Ross Taylor showed at Old Trafford, is fragile when their plans are undermined. Taylor flayed three sixes of Sidebottom.

Steyn is the man to beat in the global pace bowling stakes right now, but Sidebottom, as a rare breed, has the chance to write his name in history. Australia's Davidson took 186 Test wickets and he is the third greatest left-arm pace bowler in Test history. Sidebottom is a third of the way there already and, as a later starter, is still approaching his peak at 30. He'll never be Wasim, or Chaminda, but he could be the next best thing.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rightarmover on June 19, 2008, 4:03 GMT

    Sidebottom is just a bowler, nothing special, i would put Steyn and Lee as the top fast Bowlers in the world at the moment, The rest are good but not great. He's got a big heart and i put him on a tier below Steyn and Lee and put him on the level with blokes like Ntini, Zaheer, Hoggard, Pathan and an ageing Vaas, Honest tryers but not world beaters.

  • Finnster on June 5, 2008, 8:18 GMT

    And of course, the irony here is, as we've disputed the toss of the coin, Lee has just quietly completed an 8 for 110 Test Match - and not in Australia!

  • Finnster on June 4, 2008, 14:59 GMT

    Phat-Boy, your repeated "he's Australian so he must be No.1" comment is making your bias and blind spot a little obvious. So, the West Indies are only just realising Lee's only "in a good patch" of 2 good seasons, are they? I rather think they paid a little more attention to his 5-for than you can bear to. Or doesn't that one count, either?

  • TheDoctor394 on June 4, 2008, 0:41 GMT

    I'm quite bemused by a lot of the comments on this article. Maybe it overstated Sidebottom's quality a bit, but the main point was to say that he has come back and done extremely well. And that is a fact. Figures prove it. It's all very well to say but he's done it mainly against weak opposition, but you can only perform against whom you're playing, and his performances have been outstanding. However, I certainly agree with people mentioning Stuart Clark. His young career has been incredible so far, and he deserves more recognition. In regards to English bias, as an Englishman living in Australia, it's refreshing to hear English bias for a change, instead of Australian. :)

  • Phat-Boy on June 1, 2008, 3:24 GMT

    Really.

    Brett Lee has averaged almost 28 since the '05 Ashes. good, but not outrageous. I simply do not understand how 2 good series all of a sudden translates into what most people are saying is 3 years of superb form. Even as we speak, the West Indies are finding out that Lee was simply in a good patch.

    He's Australian though so he has to be number one....

  • Finnster on May 29, 2008, 15:32 GMT

    Well, this is a surprise. I seriously didn't consider anyone could possibly argue against Lee being the best. Perhaps people aren't considering that the Lee of post-Ashes '05 is a completely different creature than he used to be when express bowling was his total focus. His form over the last few years has been without peer. Even with his poorer pre-05 averages taken into account, he still has an average of under 30. People who suggest his accuracy is erratic simply haven't seen him bowl for the past few years.

  • plod on May 29, 2008, 4:22 GMT

    To John Stern and all the other respondents, I am a cricket tragic and watch all Sky/Fox coverage of cricket all around the world. Have seen all the test playing nations live in Oz and on the Telly. Firstly Ryan Sidebottom. I am surprised at what respondents are saying is the speed at which he bowls. 90mph!! I'd like to see the proof. He is a swing bowler with ability. But military medium I would guess. No argument. But unlikely to trouble any test batsmen when conditions are not humid and on green tops. He is not a super accurate bowler. I think his weight, fitness levels and lack of athleticism are all negatives. England with Sidebottom and Panesar in the field rank with all the cellar dweller's nations as far as fielding goes. Despite what your Indian/Pakistani correspondents claim, Australia is the measuring stick. Sidebottom has not been tested against the best. When he performs against the No.1 team, then John Stern you can restart your rantings.

  • Phat-Boy on May 29, 2008, 3:15 GMT

    Amidst all the frankly ridiculous hype that Brett Lee has generated over the last 12 months, all those busy fussing themselves over him seem to forget that he has only taken wickets against two teams, both of which was on his home turf. I read with interest where one comment stated that Lee had 'proven himself on a number of surfaces against a variety of opposition.'

    No he hasn't. He proved himself against a Sri Lankan line-up bereft of form players except for Sangakkara (and he missed the first test) and Jayawardene. He bowled well against India, but that was for 4 tests, one of which was on the quickest pitch in the world. Hardly enough to qualify him as having dominated batting line ups 'in all conditions on all surfaces.'

    Fair - all an Australian has to do is take 5 or hit a 100 and he is the best in the world, so it seems.

  • redneck on May 29, 2008, 2:11 GMT

    i think its a bit premature to label sidebottom v steyn. Australia have played only 7 tests since the final ashes test in Sydney, i would say england and South Africa have played a lot more tests in the last 12 months. i think you will find brett lee has improved 10 fold and a man by the name of stuart clark has stepped up for Australia post McGrath. also Fidel Edwards is going to be a force in the next 5 years!!! if sidebottom is the best they will be able to throw at the Aussies next year then god help england! cant wait to see steyn bowl to the Aussies at the end of the year that will be his litmus test!

  • KILLER_786_21 on May 28, 2008, 21:23 GMT

    as long as taking wickets. in Asia sidebottom was man of the series in sri lanka after england won series in sri lanka with his super economic & wicket taking spells england had to chase small targets in sri lanka thats why were victorious in a place like sri lanka where they were the only 2nd team after aus to win series in last 10yrs.& ya sidebottom still needs to improve but he is a good bowler & has the potential to be best in world & i am an Indian but i must say if English press hype their players just after 6months of success then Indian press is also no different they call ishant next world no.1 just after 1good series & kevin was world best batsman but he was never at 10th spot in rankings in tests so he was still best young batsman in tests he is now in top5 in tests & top 10 in odi in rankings.zaheer,rp all are good but vaas is nothing in tests while zaheer & sidebottom are equally aggressive,effective & dangerous because they swing the ball at decent pace unlike rp while s.clark is a seam bowler not swing

  • rightarmover on June 19, 2008, 4:03 GMT

    Sidebottom is just a bowler, nothing special, i would put Steyn and Lee as the top fast Bowlers in the world at the moment, The rest are good but not great. He's got a big heart and i put him on a tier below Steyn and Lee and put him on the level with blokes like Ntini, Zaheer, Hoggard, Pathan and an ageing Vaas, Honest tryers but not world beaters.

  • Finnster on June 5, 2008, 8:18 GMT

    And of course, the irony here is, as we've disputed the toss of the coin, Lee has just quietly completed an 8 for 110 Test Match - and not in Australia!

  • Finnster on June 4, 2008, 14:59 GMT

    Phat-Boy, your repeated "he's Australian so he must be No.1" comment is making your bias and blind spot a little obvious. So, the West Indies are only just realising Lee's only "in a good patch" of 2 good seasons, are they? I rather think they paid a little more attention to his 5-for than you can bear to. Or doesn't that one count, either?

  • TheDoctor394 on June 4, 2008, 0:41 GMT

    I'm quite bemused by a lot of the comments on this article. Maybe it overstated Sidebottom's quality a bit, but the main point was to say that he has come back and done extremely well. And that is a fact. Figures prove it. It's all very well to say but he's done it mainly against weak opposition, but you can only perform against whom you're playing, and his performances have been outstanding. However, I certainly agree with people mentioning Stuart Clark. His young career has been incredible so far, and he deserves more recognition. In regards to English bias, as an Englishman living in Australia, it's refreshing to hear English bias for a change, instead of Australian. :)

  • Phat-Boy on June 1, 2008, 3:24 GMT

    Really.

    Brett Lee has averaged almost 28 since the '05 Ashes. good, but not outrageous. I simply do not understand how 2 good series all of a sudden translates into what most people are saying is 3 years of superb form. Even as we speak, the West Indies are finding out that Lee was simply in a good patch.

    He's Australian though so he has to be number one....

  • Finnster on May 29, 2008, 15:32 GMT

    Well, this is a surprise. I seriously didn't consider anyone could possibly argue against Lee being the best. Perhaps people aren't considering that the Lee of post-Ashes '05 is a completely different creature than he used to be when express bowling was his total focus. His form over the last few years has been without peer. Even with his poorer pre-05 averages taken into account, he still has an average of under 30. People who suggest his accuracy is erratic simply haven't seen him bowl for the past few years.

  • plod on May 29, 2008, 4:22 GMT

    To John Stern and all the other respondents, I am a cricket tragic and watch all Sky/Fox coverage of cricket all around the world. Have seen all the test playing nations live in Oz and on the Telly. Firstly Ryan Sidebottom. I am surprised at what respondents are saying is the speed at which he bowls. 90mph!! I'd like to see the proof. He is a swing bowler with ability. But military medium I would guess. No argument. But unlikely to trouble any test batsmen when conditions are not humid and on green tops. He is not a super accurate bowler. I think his weight, fitness levels and lack of athleticism are all negatives. England with Sidebottom and Panesar in the field rank with all the cellar dweller's nations as far as fielding goes. Despite what your Indian/Pakistani correspondents claim, Australia is the measuring stick. Sidebottom has not been tested against the best. When he performs against the No.1 team, then John Stern you can restart your rantings.

  • Phat-Boy on May 29, 2008, 3:15 GMT

    Amidst all the frankly ridiculous hype that Brett Lee has generated over the last 12 months, all those busy fussing themselves over him seem to forget that he has only taken wickets against two teams, both of which was on his home turf. I read with interest where one comment stated that Lee had 'proven himself on a number of surfaces against a variety of opposition.'

    No he hasn't. He proved himself against a Sri Lankan line-up bereft of form players except for Sangakkara (and he missed the first test) and Jayawardene. He bowled well against India, but that was for 4 tests, one of which was on the quickest pitch in the world. Hardly enough to qualify him as having dominated batting line ups 'in all conditions on all surfaces.'

    Fair - all an Australian has to do is take 5 or hit a 100 and he is the best in the world, so it seems.

  • redneck on May 29, 2008, 2:11 GMT

    i think its a bit premature to label sidebottom v steyn. Australia have played only 7 tests since the final ashes test in Sydney, i would say england and South Africa have played a lot more tests in the last 12 months. i think you will find brett lee has improved 10 fold and a man by the name of stuart clark has stepped up for Australia post McGrath. also Fidel Edwards is going to be a force in the next 5 years!!! if sidebottom is the best they will be able to throw at the Aussies next year then god help england! cant wait to see steyn bowl to the Aussies at the end of the year that will be his litmus test!

  • KILLER_786_21 on May 28, 2008, 21:23 GMT

    as long as taking wickets. in Asia sidebottom was man of the series in sri lanka after england won series in sri lanka with his super economic & wicket taking spells england had to chase small targets in sri lanka thats why were victorious in a place like sri lanka where they were the only 2nd team after aus to win series in last 10yrs.& ya sidebottom still needs to improve but he is a good bowler & has the potential to be best in world & i am an Indian but i must say if English press hype their players just after 6months of success then Indian press is also no different they call ishant next world no.1 just after 1good series & kevin was world best batsman but he was never at 10th spot in rankings in tests so he was still best young batsman in tests he is now in top5 in tests & top 10 in odi in rankings.zaheer,rp all are good but vaas is nothing in tests while zaheer & sidebottom are equally aggressive,effective & dangerous because they swing the ball at decent pace unlike rp while s.clark is a seam bowler not swing

  • Vakbar on May 28, 2008, 13:53 GMT

    Agree with the previous comments...this is a laughable article from the normally perceptive and sensible Stern. Whilst Sidebottom is a much improved bowler, he is no world beater, as evidenced by the fact that he gets wickets against weaker teams and the fact that he was totally out bowled by RP Singh and Zaheer Khan on India's last tour of England. Comparing him to Steyn is a joke. And let's not forget Steyn is bowling a team with as little experience - Morne Morkel and he are both greenhorns, although Ntini is clearly a world class bowler. As to his status as a left armer, even in today's weaker bowling attacks, he would not be first pick ahead of the likes of Pathan, Singh, Khan, Vaas.

    Also, it is fiction to call him "seriously quick"; as he bowls whole spells where his average speed is in the low eighties; and I have yet to see a single delivery over 88mph

  • edrich on May 28, 2008, 11:08 GMT

    Quite the most ridiculous article i have read in a long time. At best he is a good county player.His speed is vastly exaggerated.He mops up wickets against poor opposition but against India and Sri Lanka was found wanting.Against a class batting side like India Tremlett took more wickets and better batsmen and at a better average than Sidebottom.His figures are flattering purely because he has taken part in series against the WI and NZ. This season he has hardly ripped through the NZ top-order.When he comes up against classier batsmen they will have little trouble with his line.Much of the time he doesn't even make the NZ batsmen play.Without swinging conditions all he brings is his energy. We are never going to threaten Australia or South Africa with this man opening the attack. He exemplifies the lack of vision of Moores.Sidebottom is what he is-an honest,hard working county bowler who does not have the potential to improve at the highest level.

  • Gazzafoot on May 28, 2008, 10:28 GMT

    Brett Lee!!!! He may be fast but he's all over the place, not a shadow on the old Oz quickies, so Sidebottom is more than qualified to be included among them, Ntini and Steyn. If Lee is good then you'll be saying Anderson is class next!!!!

  • Theena on May 28, 2008, 10:15 GMT

    As a success story, Sidebottom's rise from relative obscurity to England's preeminent fast bowler in the space of, what, a year or so is inspiring to say the least. But I would much rather hear of how another fast bowler has stepped into more the more imposing shoes of Glenn McGrath (as opposed to as that of Harmison or Flintoff's) and made it his own. His name is Stuart Clark.

    More on him please.

  • RSG476 on May 28, 2008, 8:40 GMT

    While I agree that Sidebottom is hardly up there in the pantheon of great left hand fast bowlers, and that ignoring Lee / Clark / Ntini /Zaheer hardly makes sense, I think we also need to reflect on how in an era supposedly for batsmen, bowlers look great when batsmen are faced with bad surfaces or bowler friendly conditions. Sidebottom is amongst the plethora of bowlers who look good today simply because the batsmen have forgotten how to play swing and seam bowling in helpful conditions. Without sounding blasphemous, I sometimes doubt even if McGrath, the great metronome, would have been as successful in the 80s (say against the likes of a Gavaskar)when batsmen seemed better at leaving balls. Right now, apart from the promise that Steyn holds, there is not a single great fast bowler in the world who could have dominated the game in the 80s. That one can contemplate picking Sidebottom as a great fast bowler, is also a sign of this decline.

  • jimbond on May 28, 2008, 1:37 GMT

    Sidebottom has improved and has been impressive in the past six months. However, its early days to call him the best fast bowler, or even the best left arm fast bowler. In terms of sheer pace, one could think of several others with more potential- such as Steyn, Lee, Jerome Taylor, Asif (though he does not have too much of pace), Ishant Sharma, Morkel. Even several left arm fast bowlers may compare favorably with Sidebottom- such as R P Singh, Tanvir, Zaheer Khan. More than his own greatness, Sidebottom's predominance in the English pace attack indicates the paucity and decline of fast bowlers in the English team.

  • david_robbo on May 28, 2008, 1:31 GMT

    A couple of good tours does not make this man the best quick bowler in the world. Lee is the best quick in the world right now, the most consistent performer in a variety of conditions against all opposition. I would also put the likes of Clark, Asif and Steyn above Sidebottom. Give him a couple of years, and if he is still performing at his current standard then start discussing his place at the top of the tree.

  • Nerk on May 27, 2008, 23:48 GMT

    Tinker, I don't blame the English saying how good a particular player is, they don't have much else to talk about. I've watched Sidebottom bowl a couple of times on telly and I really enjoy it when he comes on. (must be the hair!) He can make that ball swing. He definitely is not a world beater... yet, at least, but he is a good bowler, and having noted how some of the Aussies seem to struggle against a good swinger, I will be watching this blokes progress very keenly!

  • aditya.pidaparthy on May 27, 2008, 20:58 GMT

    Yes, Sidebottom is the top bowler. If you start counting from the Bottom and a bit to the side.

    Yet another English journalist, jumping the gun. He was carted all around the park by the Indians while playing in England. I do not think what will come of him if he faces them in India.

    The problem with the English media is the moment you have one victory (whether in cricket or football) you start writing articles on how world war III will be won by you guys.

    I like you guys. At least I get my daily dose of Laughs.

    Keep it up

  • idsavant on May 27, 2008, 19:50 GMT

    I'm surprised at all the doubt I read in the above posts. Sidebottom is an extremely accurate swing bowler. His swing bowling is around 80-85mph. As I recall from his return, he started even slower than that. However, when the conditions aren't suited to swing, he bowls with lively pace - at around 90mph - such as the 20/20 games against NZ. He was the fastest and most consistent of all the bowlers in those matches.

    Sidebottom's rise has been meteoric. Steyn is extremely capable now, but he was largely ineffective against England in their 2004-2005 tour of South Africa. Sidebottom immediately showed his masterclass upon his return to the English side.

    I'm not a supporter of the English side by any means (except in the Ashes) but I will tip my hat to a history-maker; I'm not afraid to recognize new talent. Many of the above posters appear to be preoccupied with a rose-tinted view of past greats.

  • WindiesAgain on May 27, 2008, 18:17 GMT

    Anyone who thinks Chaminda Vaas is not up there with the truly greats is out of their minds. The man was a one man wrecking crew for most of his career. Sidebottom is not up there with Lee, Steyn, Ntini & Vaas. How anyone would mention Sidebottom in the same breath with Wasim is incomprehensible.

  • Finnster on May 27, 2008, 18:10 GMT

    "Brett Lee might just consider himself in the mix as well"???? Well that's just plain silly. Brett Lee is without any reasonable doubt the pre-eminent bowler in the world. Up and comers like Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma may very well prove to be worthy claimants of the throne before long, but if anyone "might just consider himself in the mix" it would be Stuart Clark, who could reasonably consider himself the heir apparent. Ryan Sidebottom? Sheesh. He's up there with Mitchell Johnson, or will be, if he performs against some quality opposition.

  • mr_hardcore_is_i on May 27, 2008, 17:37 GMT

    Firstly of course Sidebottom is such a good bowler these days, but he is no where near 90mph bracket consistently. And also what about brett lee and particularly Stuart Clark?! Clark has a better record than both of them (apart from strike rate to steyn who has about 10 less!) and unless sidebottom takes 13 or more wickets in the next match clark would have taken more wickets than him at a better average and against better opposition! (Sidebottom has better figures for a match too, but look who Clark has been bowling with as company and compare that to england!) Clarks consistency at taking wickets has been amazing!

  • Ed270380 on May 27, 2008, 16:17 GMT

    Sidebottom was badly let down by his team mates in Sril Lanka - if the rest of the England team could catch then he would have taken plenty of wickets in the sub-continent already.

    I do agree he is no-where near the quality of the other bowlers being mentioned here (Lee, McGrath etc) but surely congratulations must be given to a man who was discarded by Fletcher at 23 and then used the next 7 years to hone his skills and learn his trade properly?

    His stats speak for themselves. In his 15 tests, he has taken 63 wickets at an average of 26 (including 34 against New Zealand and 15 against West Indies). In 2008 he has taken 34 wickets at 18.88 - surely we can't ask any more of him at this stage in his career???

    He has become England's most dependable bowler, he rarely goes for runs, and when he does he usually follows it up with a crucial wicket for the team. In a time where we have seen Harmison fade away and Flintoff injured he has performed admirably.

  • slasaus on May 27, 2008, 15:16 GMT

    Sidebottom had a vicious spell (something like 4w/7r/5o) during the first test with pace, extra bounce and swing but that was NZ's tail. Can't wait to see Steyn bowl at a proper English batting line up and vice versa. If England will have the likes of Flintoff and Hoggard (S Jones) in top form alongside Sidebottom I reckon we're in for some competitive test matches this summer and next summer. After that one may judge whether Sidebottom is amongst the top bowlers in the world.

  • MichaelR on May 27, 2008, 14:35 GMT

    This is why we love the English - you guys can always be relied on to put a little bias into your analysis! How about Stuart Clark? 1 more test match, 13 more wickets, 20.77 average vs. 26.06, better strike rate, better average... Sidebottom may be England's best quick, but that's about it.

  • master-of-sin on May 27, 2008, 13:30 GMT

    what a ridiculous article,

    who is this sidebottom, his records shows him as someone who performs well on green tops and swing friendly conditions. The pressure will come not in England but outside especially in AUS and SA. What happened to the last great English revelation Steven Harmison ?. What has happened to England since the last Ashes series win against Australia ?.

  • Fontaine on May 27, 2008, 13:27 GMT

    What a joke. Against a proper batting team, Sidebottom wasn't even the 2nd best left handed bowler last year against India.

    Zaheer Kahn out bowled everyone and RP Singh as the other left armer, and as a 3rd bowler got more swing and movement than Sidebottom bowling with the new ball.

    RP Singh got more wickets in less overs and better average vs. England that were at home and had numerous players averaging over 40. You even mention that Sidebottom learned how to bowl around the wicket from watching RP Singh last year.

    The only reason Sidebottom looks decent is because he always gets the new ball and compared to the rest of England's hapless bowlers like Anderson, Harmison, Hoggard etc Sidebottom looks good because he can actually bowl line and length and tries very hard. Rather than spraying it all over the place like a school boy (Anderson), getting emotional and complaining about every tour (Harmison) or over the hill (Hoggard), and constantly injured (Freddie).

  • r1m2 on May 27, 2008, 13:11 GMT

    First of all this article is baseless. Simply because England hasn't played against the top cricket nations during the time mentioned. I'd wait to make any judgment on Sidebottom's abilities until he bowls against Australia and South Africa. He won't even need to take bag-full of wickets against them, just redeem himself, stay below 3.0 economy rate/35 average, and I will say he's good enough. Until then based on his performance so far, I'd say he's been consistent but not earth-shattering. Earth-shattering he may never be, but if he can stay consistent against Australia, South Africa who'll come after him, then he's good enough.

  • Ryanbrew on May 27, 2008, 13:06 GMT

    I understand what you are trying to say in this article, however it is impossible for you to ever compare Steyn and Sidebottom. Steyn has bowled incredibly well in all conditions - not just in SA. He has bowled well in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Sidebottom was miserable in Sri Lanka.

    Also I find it amazing to see how many people have mentioned Tanvir. Do me a favor and look at his feet when he bowls around the wicket. Every ball he bowls around the wicket should be called a no ball. His back foot crosses the side crease every time - I think the umpires get a little confused with his footwork and rarely spot it, but it is clear on Video.

    Ishant - it is way too early in his career to make a call. I had to laugh after the Aus ODI series when a certain Indian commentator called him the best bowler in the world. He may be a talent - but still needs to prove that he has the head to be the best - something which seems to be a problem for some Indian bowlers at present - sree?

  • Theena on May 27, 2008, 11:38 GMT

    You English will never learn, will you?

    I am just going to echo Josh's comments below and add that Sidebottom (or, as a friend accidentally put it, Bottomside) will need a few more years, and play against tougher opposition (read Australia), in more testing conditions (read sub-continent; I seem to recall him being blunt as an old knife during the tour to Sri Lanka) before we even begin passing judgment on his legacy and his place among the pantheon of great fast bowlers.

    Right now, he's good but he's no where near Steyn's brilliance (remember that delivery he got Vaughn out with? My God.), and the potency of Lee and the consistency of Clark.

  • matty_g on May 27, 2008, 11:08 GMT

    Don't understand how sohail tanvir can be considered as world class like people are saying after successes in 20/20 and some decent returns from recent Zimbabwe and Bangladesh's series...i think sidebottom will fail on subcontinent and south African pitches also

  • uknsaunders on May 27, 2008, 10:57 GMT

    I think the point of the article was to show that sidebottom deserves praise for his efforts rather than any claim to be a world beater. The article obviously glosses over the fact england play more test cricket than most and sidebottom only occasionally reaches 90mph, 85mph being the norm. Flectcher was right to drop him in 2001 because he couldn't move the ball back into the right handers and sidebottom went back and worked on this flaw. Also when referring to the fletcher period, people forget sidebottom is 6'4 and pretty capable of bowling the odd bouncer and showing the agreession fletcher wanted from a test match bowler. Those people who have pointed out his india/sri lanka record must remember he had appalling bad luck and his average would of been in the 30's or even 20's had catches been taken - he was praised by many for his efforts in sri lanka. The best thing to say is give him time to show how good he is!

  • pka1982 on May 27, 2008, 10:36 GMT

    Sidebottom-In contention for being the world's top bowler--good joke. Comparision with Wasim Akram--ridiculous This guy cannot bowl on pitches which do not swing

  • Kalkat_Jasran on May 27, 2008, 10:19 GMT

    sidebottom a talent, but has to prove himself against good batting opposition like the Australia and the Indians, he's nowhere near best in the world. Lee, Clark and Steyn lead they way. As for future prospect have you fellas forgot Ishant Sharma.

  • tinker on May 27, 2008, 10:14 GMT

    It just wouldn't be cricinfo without some story about how an Englishman is the best because he's had a good 6 months.

    Not long ago all the articles were about how KP was the best batsman in the world despite being ranked 10th by the ICC.

  • avssrs on May 27, 2008, 9:41 GMT

    Nothing against Sidebottom whose skills and work ethic are admirable. But Lee and Steyn are the top pace bowlers at the moment, and we all know it.

    As for left armers, RP Singh hasn't exactly been sitting on his behind. Getting Hussey 4 times in a series is no ordinary feat. Then there's Mitchell Johnson. Granted he didn't do great in the last test series, but he bowls at around 90 mph and will be one to watch in next year's Ashes since England do not have India's batting. Sohail Tanvir, however, is the dark horse here. A wrong-footed action he might have, but he has started looking genuinely world class in just a few months. Doesn't have Wasim's pace but definitely has his guile.

  • CricketPissek on May 27, 2008, 8:47 GMT

    how some "experts" who've commented on this article are rubbishing Vaas annoys me no end! I haven't seen Davidson bowl, so i won't compare the two. But I know he played in a team of very very talented Australians. Until a few years ago, Vaas was a one-man pace attack for Sri Lanka and his longevity is nothing but a credit to him. He's no Akram :) but he's a Sri Lankan legend and excellent bowler nonetheless

  • NBZ1 on May 27, 2008, 8:29 GMT

    Agree with Brendanvio. Vaas is a dependable bowler, but he has never been a truly great fast bowler, the sort that can run through opposition lineups and regularly take 5-wicket hauls. Now Davidson was that sort of a bowler.

    As for Sidebottom, I doubt we have seen enough of him to start calling him the best bowler in the world. It is a sign of the dearth of fast bowling these days, that Sidebottom has been elevated to this status so early in his career. In say 1996-1997, you had Akram, Younis, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, Pollock, McGrath and even Srinath packing the punches. Now after the demise of Akhtar and Bond and the mass retirements, all you have left of the old guard are Lee and Ntini. Even so it is not Sidebottom but Steyn and Clark who will likely be the next fast-bowling greats. And of course as usual you have some serious fast-bowling talent in Pakistan in the form of Asif, Tanvir and Gul, but given the management in Pakistan it is difficult to be hopeful about them.

  • Kilat on May 27, 2008, 8:09 GMT

    No way is Sidebottom in the 90 mph bracket like Dale Steyn!!

    There are a number who are consistently (remember one Brett Lee?), a number who are close a lot of the time, and some who get up there occasionally. Sidebottom does not fall into any of these categories.

  • Bagapath on May 27, 2008, 7:55 GMT

    irrespective of aggregate tally of wickets, akram and davidson are the top contenders for the crown of greatest left arm pace bowler in history. among current players sidebottom should lead the pack though. he is better than zaheer and vaas is on his last legs.

  • Rooboy on May 27, 2008, 7:39 GMT

    A member of the english press over hyping and over rating another English player ... while not surprising, the parochial myopia of such comments never fails to amuse. Honestly though, this article has to have been written tongue in cheek, doesn't it? 'Brett Lee might just consider himself in the mix as well' ... umm, no Mr. Stern, the entire cricketing community (with the probable exception of some english journalists) would consider Lee (along with Steyn) to be a fair way ahead of someone knocking over NZ and WI batsmen in mostly bowler friendly conditions. That's not to say Sidebottom hasn't bowled very well lately, he has, but best in the world?!? That's laughable.

  • Faraz.Ahmed on May 27, 2008, 7:16 GMT

    Can't believe how people can claim that someone is "the best bowler in the world". Few weeks ago Javagal Srinath claimed that Ishant was "the best bowler in the world" after only 2 test matches and now an englishman is just short of claiming that sidebottom is the best. I seriously agree with Josh about the overreaction. As a Pakistani I am shocked not to find the names of a kid known as Mohammad Asif ! And maybe Sohail tanvir although i feel more sorry for the Aussie bowlers like Lee..he certainly deserves that crown

  • Aditya_mookerjee on May 27, 2008, 6:49 GMT

    No one would be more pleased than Duncan Fletcher, at the perceived progress made by Ryan Sidebottom. When contemplating left armers, one certainly cannot say that Zaheer Khan is not as good as Vaas. Vaas is a great bowler, and so is Zaheer. Left armed bowlers are viewed unsympathetically, unless one is in the Pakistan or Indian Teams. Perhaps it is psychological, that a right handed player/captain will have more confidence in a right handed team mate. India, believes in its left handed spin bowlers, after the career of Mr Bedi, and players like Maninder Singh. Sidebottom is exciting to watch, because he is such a good bowler, with such an imperfect action.

  • himess on May 27, 2008, 6:29 GMT

    Valid point by passerby. He has performed only in England so far where conditions are favourable for a swing bowler like him. And he wasn't even the best left armer on display when India toured England. So its too early to judge about Sidebottom. Let him perform on flat subcontinent pitches offering no help to the pacers first before declaring how great this guy is or will be.

  • Josh88 on May 27, 2008, 4:56 GMT

    This comes across as another overreaction to an English player's performance from an English journalist (correct me if I'm wrong). John you skimmed over the fact that Sidebottom's best tests so far have been against New Zealand and the West Indies. How can Sidebottom be considered amongst the world's best when he has not yet been tested against Australia or even South Africa? He does look impressive, perhaps even more so than his figures imply, but please don't begin the comparisons at this stage of his career. Every six months there is a new claim about one of the English players being 'one of the best'. I distinctly remember the hysteria that surrounded Panesar for a while before he was duly taken apart by the Australian batsmen in 07. To say that Lee 'might consider himself in the mix as well' is an insult to a proven world class player. No mention of Stuart Clark either, whose figures are as good as his line and length. Sidebottom has talent but let's wait a while before such worship.

  • Bilzo on May 27, 2008, 4:45 GMT

    Sidebottom played 15tests,of which he has played 12 tests in england and NZ . Pitches in NZ &England are Seamer and Swing Friendly Conditions. Total wickets in England and NZ=58. Total career wickets=63. %=92%. Total tests in Asia(Ind=0,Pak=0,Bang=0,SL=3)=3. Total wickets in Asia=5.Total tests in Aus=0, Without having played in India and Australia, where does he stand among world bowlers right now? NOWHERE. So give him and let him play a couple of games in india and australia. If he gains even 50% success he has had in england and NZ we will give him the thumbs up! otherwise....he is just one among many good ones(not great ones!), sadly which i believe is the case!!!!

  • Brendanvio on May 27, 2008, 4:30 GMT

    Sorry John, but to suggest that Chaminda Vaas is superior to Davidson, even if he has more wickets, is a bit of a joke.

    Wasim is the best, followed by Davidson, maybe Chaminda is somewhere in the mix, but he is not the superior of Alan Davidson.

  • KSPillai on May 27, 2008, 3:23 GMT

    Even Sidebottom will be embarrassed by this claim! Couple of years ago, it was Harmison and we have seen what became of him. Let Sidebottom perform against stronger opponents on different pitches, notably on the sub continent. Give the opposing teams a bit of time to sort him out. If he still performs at the same level, then is the time to put him in the top bracket..

  • kingofspain on May 27, 2008, 3:07 GMT

    Surely Stuart Clark deserves a mention. He's taken seventy-odd wickets at 22 in the last 18 months.

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  • kingofspain on May 27, 2008, 3:07 GMT

    Surely Stuart Clark deserves a mention. He's taken seventy-odd wickets at 22 in the last 18 months.

  • KSPillai on May 27, 2008, 3:23 GMT

    Even Sidebottom will be embarrassed by this claim! Couple of years ago, it was Harmison and we have seen what became of him. Let Sidebottom perform against stronger opponents on different pitches, notably on the sub continent. Give the opposing teams a bit of time to sort him out. If he still performs at the same level, then is the time to put him in the top bracket..

  • Brendanvio on May 27, 2008, 4:30 GMT

    Sorry John, but to suggest that Chaminda Vaas is superior to Davidson, even if he has more wickets, is a bit of a joke.

    Wasim is the best, followed by Davidson, maybe Chaminda is somewhere in the mix, but he is not the superior of Alan Davidson.

  • Bilzo on May 27, 2008, 4:45 GMT

    Sidebottom played 15tests,of which he has played 12 tests in england and NZ . Pitches in NZ &England are Seamer and Swing Friendly Conditions. Total wickets in England and NZ=58. Total career wickets=63. %=92%. Total tests in Asia(Ind=0,Pak=0,Bang=0,SL=3)=3. Total wickets in Asia=5.Total tests in Aus=0, Without having played in India and Australia, where does he stand among world bowlers right now? NOWHERE. So give him and let him play a couple of games in india and australia. If he gains even 50% success he has had in england and NZ we will give him the thumbs up! otherwise....he is just one among many good ones(not great ones!), sadly which i believe is the case!!!!

  • Josh88 on May 27, 2008, 4:56 GMT

    This comes across as another overreaction to an English player's performance from an English journalist (correct me if I'm wrong). John you skimmed over the fact that Sidebottom's best tests so far have been against New Zealand and the West Indies. How can Sidebottom be considered amongst the world's best when he has not yet been tested against Australia or even South Africa? He does look impressive, perhaps even more so than his figures imply, but please don't begin the comparisons at this stage of his career. Every six months there is a new claim about one of the English players being 'one of the best'. I distinctly remember the hysteria that surrounded Panesar for a while before he was duly taken apart by the Australian batsmen in 07. To say that Lee 'might consider himself in the mix as well' is an insult to a proven world class player. No mention of Stuart Clark either, whose figures are as good as his line and length. Sidebottom has talent but let's wait a while before such worship.

  • himess on May 27, 2008, 6:29 GMT

    Valid point by passerby. He has performed only in England so far where conditions are favourable for a swing bowler like him. And he wasn't even the best left armer on display when India toured England. So its too early to judge about Sidebottom. Let him perform on flat subcontinent pitches offering no help to the pacers first before declaring how great this guy is or will be.

  • Aditya_mookerjee on May 27, 2008, 6:49 GMT

    No one would be more pleased than Duncan Fletcher, at the perceived progress made by Ryan Sidebottom. When contemplating left armers, one certainly cannot say that Zaheer Khan is not as good as Vaas. Vaas is a great bowler, and so is Zaheer. Left armed bowlers are viewed unsympathetically, unless one is in the Pakistan or Indian Teams. Perhaps it is psychological, that a right handed player/captain will have more confidence in a right handed team mate. India, believes in its left handed spin bowlers, after the career of Mr Bedi, and players like Maninder Singh. Sidebottom is exciting to watch, because he is such a good bowler, with such an imperfect action.

  • Faraz.Ahmed on May 27, 2008, 7:16 GMT

    Can't believe how people can claim that someone is "the best bowler in the world". Few weeks ago Javagal Srinath claimed that Ishant was "the best bowler in the world" after only 2 test matches and now an englishman is just short of claiming that sidebottom is the best. I seriously agree with Josh about the overreaction. As a Pakistani I am shocked not to find the names of a kid known as Mohammad Asif ! And maybe Sohail tanvir although i feel more sorry for the Aussie bowlers like Lee..he certainly deserves that crown

  • Rooboy on May 27, 2008, 7:39 GMT

    A member of the english press over hyping and over rating another English player ... while not surprising, the parochial myopia of such comments never fails to amuse. Honestly though, this article has to have been written tongue in cheek, doesn't it? 'Brett Lee might just consider himself in the mix as well' ... umm, no Mr. Stern, the entire cricketing community (with the probable exception of some english journalists) would consider Lee (along with Steyn) to be a fair way ahead of someone knocking over NZ and WI batsmen in mostly bowler friendly conditions. That's not to say Sidebottom hasn't bowled very well lately, he has, but best in the world?!? That's laughable.

  • Bagapath on May 27, 2008, 7:55 GMT

    irrespective of aggregate tally of wickets, akram and davidson are the top contenders for the crown of greatest left arm pace bowler in history. among current players sidebottom should lead the pack though. he is better than zaheer and vaas is on his last legs.