Hard work pays off for Siddle, Finch

Peter Siddle grabbed a couple of early wickets Associated Press

This time the South African crowds had no reason to indulge in their crude taunt, "Siddle is a w****r", when Peter Siddle stood ready to bowl the first delivery of the match. Admittedly, it wasn't the Centurion lot who coined that wonderfully ingenious line, but their cousins down the road at Wanderers when Siddle was peppering Dale Steyn in a test match two summers ago.

They forgot about him after that, as he had virtually vanished off the radar for them as rudely as he had arrived on it, missing the one-day international series to recover in time for the 2009 Ashes. Siddle made a brief reappearance in South Africa for the Champions Trophy but they have only really got another good look at him during the match between the Victoria Bushrangers and the Central District Stags, and they may have been surprised to see how much less of a man he was.

"He is about 10 kilograms lighter than he was before" said Aaron Finch, Victoria's opening batsman. "He has been battling to recover from stress fractures and has worked really hard. I haven't seen anyone work as hard as him and his two wickets got us off to a really good start. He was hitting the keeper's gloves hard today and gave us a real advantage upfront. He was very impressive."

Perhaps the real reason Finch identifies so well with Siddle is because there was a bit of bad-boy streak in both. Finch's match-winning 93 not out is the culmination of a period of maturity for the 23-year old. "If I compare myself to last year this time there's a big difference. I have worked very hard on my technique and my temperament." It's mostly the latter that Finch thinks has got him to where he is now. "I couldn't handle playing at the top level but this Victoria side is one everyone wants to be part of and I am really enjoying it."

One of his great sources of pleasure has come from being moved from the number three spot to the opening berth, a role he is more comfortable in. "I'm pleased to have played a decent innings at the top. Batting at number three is tough and I feel I have more freedom at the top." The best way to exploit that freedom is to "take every bit of luck you can get," Finch said, adding that that was his strategy after he was caught off a no-ball in the second over.

"The catch of the no-ball proved to be very important. We let ourselves down in the field," said Stags skipper Jamie How. "165 was a defendable score. The wicket was a bit tired and hitting through the line became difficult. We bowled a few too many boundary balls but there were also some nicks that went for four. That's just the game."

Although the Central Districts will face an uphill battle to advance further in the tournament, How was pleased with the improvement his team made after their loss to the Chennai Super Kings last Saturday. "After that match, a few people would probably have written us off and they would have had a right to. Today we proved we can compete with the best sides in the world. We almost had a complete game. Our start wasn't ideal but we did well to get ourselves back into the game. We will concentrate on getting over the line in the next two matches."

The Stags scored 117 runs in the second half of their innings, 67 of them came in the last five overs, a strategy that seems to be dominating in this year's tournament. "We weren't surprised that they ended on 165 because we've seen in this tournament that teams that get to 60 in the first ten overs with two or three wickets down can pull out 10 or 15 runs an over for the rest of their innings," said Finch

Did Victoria aim to do a similar thing, leaving themselves 57 runs to get off the last five overs? "I was little more nervous when we needed 12 off one over, than when we needed 57 off five. I think if you have to chase more than 10 in the last over, things could get tricky," Finch confessed.

Those watching would have backed him to chase down more than 12 if needed. Finch won the match for the Bushrangers with two balls to spare with a towering six over long-on. "I was a bit worried about the angle but I was hopeful that it would get over. I have very good bats now, so I was pretty confident." There was a sneaky smile in Finch's eye when he said that, one that was suspiciously similar to the one Siddle used to wear during his South African sojourn. Maybe soon that will result in a naughty song being scripted about Finch too.