South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town March 1, 2014

Siddle asked to regain his pace


Peter Siddle has been set the task of relocating the yard of speed he has lost over the course of a taxing 18 months, after he was dropped from Australia's side for the decisive third Test against South Africa at Newlands.

An ever-present member of the Australian pace attack since his recall to the team in Sri Lanka in 2011, Siddle had played 31 Tests out of 34 since that time. He missed two matches in the West Indies through injury in 2012 and a third against South Africa in Perth later that year, after he was left fatigued and carrying a hamstring niggle due to his exertions in the second match of that series in Adelaide.

Otherwise Siddle has been a highly reliable component of the bowling attack, repeatedly breaking partnerships and complementing the other fast men in the manner of Merv Hughes. However the treadmill of back-to-back Ashes series plus the tour of South Africa had begun to wear on Siddle's pace.

Australia's coach Darren Lehmann said he had preferred James Pattinson as a third quick in Cape Town for precisely that reason. The decision leaves Siddle with some work ahead to regain his place for Australia's next Test assignment against Pakistan in Dubai.

"He's fully fit, we just wanted the extra pace and James gives us that," Lehmann said. "They're producing wickets which don't have much grass on them and take reverse, so we want the extra pace here and he's a fresh bowler, which is great. He's as keen as mustard.

"Unlucky for Sids because he's done a great job for us over the last few Tests but we've gone for the extra pace. He'd like some more wickets obviously but it's the pace drop. We need him bowling 140kph and at the moment he's averaging 131, 132. He knows that, we've spoken to him and I'm sure he will be back bigger and stronger."

Pattinson's inclusion, for what is remarkably his first appearance in a first-class match since he was invalided out of the Lord's Test match last year, was made more palatable by the return of Shane Watson as a fifth bowling option. He and Nathan Lyon can be expected to bowl tight supporting spells while Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris pursue a more aggressive plan of attack.

This blueprint left no room for Shaun Marsh, who was left out despite a hundred in the first Test at Centurion. Lehmann said the selectors had followed the order of preference they had started the tour with, favouring Alex Doolan as the No. 3 batsman.

"We love to have five bowlers. Shane's pulled up well, he's good to go so it's nice to have the allrounder back, which gives us another option," Lehmann said. "It's always tough. We had to make a choice and that's the difficult job as selectors. We have to get 20 wickets to start with and obviously make a lot of runs.

"Shaun is very unlucky. At the start of the tour we were probably going to shape up as we have today."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on March 3, 2014, 8:46 GMT

    Philander at 130k can move the ball. Siddle doesn't do enough with the pill at that speed. That's the difference.

  • David on March 2, 2014, 3:34 GMT

    I liked the balance of the bowling lineup. Johnson as a strike bowler, Harris to get the bowl moving and taking wickets when a little less is in the pitch, the holding Lyon and the workhorse Siddle, to essentially nag the batsmen out.

    I'd have a strike bowler in Johnson, best workhorse Siddle, Bird or even Copeland and then the best of the rest, acknowledging the amount of bowling necessary. This obsession with pace is ridiculous, the #1 bowler in the world at series start was Philander at 130clicks.

  • Dummy4 on March 2, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    I must say one thing I like about Darren Lehmann as coach is that he doesn't shy away from obvious truths. It would have been so easy to leave the concerns behind closed doors and put Siddle's absence down to "resting". Though Lehmann has continued to impress me in that he seems open not only to the media and fans but to the players themselves. They know what they need to achieve because he lets them know. I feel this is something coaches now lack. The guts just to front up and be honest about exclusions.

  • Guy on March 2, 2014, 1:59 GMT

    I'm a big Siddle fan, he's been a whole-hearted stalwart of the team. However, I think this decision is justified - he has dropped off in pace and, contrary to some opinions, this makes it harder to be a stock bowler as your margin for error is lower (I don't think the drop off in pace has made him more accurate). @dsig3, Siddle's best bowling for Australia was probably the summer of 2011-12, when he was also probably at his fastest. You are right that his improvement has come from bowling fuller, but I don't think that necessarily means you must bowl slower. There is no reason why one can't bowl fast and full (in fact, that is the McDermott mantra) - so I think there is merit in him freshening up to find that bit more pace and energy. Also agree with those saying its been the heavy workload, not the vegetarian diet. @mukesh, you are right about Pattinson, I think there was a good case for Jackson Bird to replace Siddle as the accurate workhorse.

  • John on March 2, 2014, 1:19 GMT

    Very confusing selection- pick a guy who has bowled a couple of OK spells in 20/20 and a near match losing spell in a 1 dayer, had no 1st class cricket since some fairly unimpressive performances in th Ashes. I agree Sids has lost a little pace but Pattinson? Really? There's got to be 2 or 3 quicks back in Aus who should have been selected before him. Moreover - if ever there's a wicket tailor made for Sids this might be it- two paced, a bit up and down it looks like by day 3 it will really favour a wicket to wicket bowler. If you're going to replace Sids, Starc was the obvious choice. In form and genuinely quick and dangerous, he also stregthens the batting more than Pattinson. And sure that means 2 left arm over the wicket bowlers but 2 totally different ones. Would have been interesting.

  • Troy on March 1, 2014, 23:28 GMT

    Man, why is it that everyone that eats meat thinks they are a nutritionist? It really bothers me all the fuss that is made over his diet. While I'm the first to admit he has lacked pentration over the past few tests, he has out performed Ryan Harris, a bowler I hugely admire. I think the bigger reason is the volume of work he has done in the past 18 months, he has played more matches than any other Australian bowler.

    Agree with @dsig3, I think pattinson is a more like for like replacent for Harris. I would have liked to have seen bird come in for siddle, while also short of red ball cricket, he did have a good few matches in the big bash. I really like pattinson, and think he is going to play a significant role for many years, but I would of preferred he play a few shield matches first.

  • Graham on March 1, 2014, 21:55 GMT

    Im not a vegetarian, but cant see Siddle diet has anything to do with it. He has been a vegetarian for about 3-4 years now so why has it taking so long. Or could it be that this he had played 16 tests since the start of the Indian tour and in need of doing some strengthening work. Glenn Mcgrath always said you were unable to do weights whilst continually bowling, it was just managing your body through it. He doesnt have a game for a while now, recover for a bit then hit the gym. Having said all of that what is this obsession with pace, Siddle has still been a significant part of out attack and is that grunt bowler that keeps charging in that we need. Im really not sure Pattinson is that type of bowler and whether he will compliment the attack. Also his last first class game was on the English tour shorly going to be a bit underdone in this crucial match.

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2014, 21:00 GMT

    Siddle at 132 is faster than many a indian bowler including ishant-can he play for india :)

  • Mashuq on March 1, 2014, 19:20 GMT

    All four will provide reverse which is needed both here and against Pakistan. Sidds may have to wait for an injury to someone before he gets another game. That said Rhino goes under the knife soon so who knows when he'll return. Starc may also come into the reckoning.

  • Peter on March 1, 2014, 18:34 GMT

    @TheLone Stranger. Marsh has not been dropped for one double failure. He has got 11 ducks in his last 11 test innings and scored 9 centuries in 12 first class seasons with a very ordinary average. That is why he was dropped, pal. Perhaps he shouldn't have been dropped because he shouldn't have been selected in the first place! @Jared Hansen While I am a huge MoHen fan, the fact is he is a batting all rounder (with better overall performances than Watson for the past 3 years). Pattinson represents our future, these type of pitches suit him perfectly & he is young enough & fit enough to bowl a stack of overs, at pace, & with reverse swing.

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