Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 2nd day December 27, 2010

Siddle's efforts clouded in controversy


Peter Siddle was Australia's everywhere man, including a brief stint as a self-appointed on-field spokesman, as the hosts tried but failed to stay in touch with England at the MCG. He was part of all five dismissals on the second day, gaining three wickets and collecting two catches, and was initially the lead protagonist in an argument with Aleem Dar over whether Kevin Pietersen should have been given out caught behind.

Siddle assumed the role of senior pro instead of 21-Test student in the initial negotiations with Dar after Australia's referral for an inside edge had been dismissed due to a lack of evidence. Having over-reacted in the middle, with a series of arm waving and arguing with Dar before Ponting took over the debate, Siddle hid behind a series of "no comments" after play, looking equally as silly as he did during the original incident occurred. He briefly expanded to say of the exchange that "it's just cricket".

It was an eventful day for the earthy resident Victorian, who appeals more to the punters in Bay 13 than the Melbourne Cricket Club members. Siddle knows his audience too, turning to the general admission seats and his team-mates to celebrate his successes with his wild roars and over-played gestures.

An hour after stumps Siddle would not explain why there was confusion over the Pietersen decision, with a Cricket Australia official saying they did not want to jeopardise a potential hearing. Brad Haddin was the only fielder to hear the nick and he convinced Ponting to contest the appeal. It looked obvious to everyone with a television replay that there was no inside edge, but Siddle and Ponting sensed injustice after watching the same footage on the big screen. Ponting received a fine of 40% of his match fee for his protests.

Siddle's logic during his press conference became so muddled that he said the players should look to Ponting for inspiration as they try to save the match over the next three days. Ponting has scored 93 runs in four Tests, has a broken finger, and finally cracked publicly under the pressure to avoid losing an Ashes series for the third time. He argued with Dar over two overs during the Pietersen episode and also had grumpy exchanges with the batsman and Tony Hill, the other umpire.

"He is the same man, a strong character," Siddle said of Ponting. "He always works hard, backs you up to the hilt and leads by example. That is what we go by."

A better example of how to play at the moment would come from taking an interest in England, who lead by 346 runs and still have five first-innings wickets in hand. Without Siddle, who performed extremely well whenever he had the ball, the situation would be even worse. His 3 for 58 from 26 overs provided the side with penetration and a crucial element of control, but despite all of the heroics Australia are still a speck in England's rear-view mirror.

Siddle provided a spark on the second morning by removing Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss within 13 runs of the resumption. The delivery to dismiss Strauss was a brute, with the batsman edging the rising ball to gully after trying to steer to the legside. Australia's problem was that the wickets didn't come on the opening afternoon, when England had already careered past their first-innings 98.

Siddle wasn't bowling at the time of the Pietersen controversy so Ponting cleverly redirected his fire and was rewarded almost immediately. Bowling around 140 kph, he got one to stay low and had Pietersen lbw for 51. While the delivery provided some much-needed cheer, it also caused more doubts for the batsmen who will be charged with the second-innings rescue.

At fine-leg Siddle was also highly effective. Instead of regaining his breath in between overs he caught Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell when they hooked carelessly at Mitchell Johnson before tea. The lunging, low take of Bell was particularly athletic and Siddle's string of useful contributions showed his value to the side. He just has to stay involved in the right way, instead of jumping into arguments on behalf of his team-mates.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on December 28, 2010, 3:54 GMT

    A guilty plea often comes with a degree of contrition, and an acknowledgment that they'd done the wrong thing...that aspect of of it always tends to lessen the punishment.

  • John on December 28, 2010, 3:18 GMT

    @intcamd: Paul Collingwood, when he was England's one-day captain, was suspended for 4 games because of England's slow over rate. Tell me an example of a sub-continental player getting punished more for doing less.

  • Dummy4 on December 28, 2010, 2:17 GMT

    Substitute Ponting siddle and dar with Afridi,Akhter and Simon Taufel. Do you think the result would have been different. The worlds media would have had a field day!

  • Chris on December 28, 2010, 0:13 GMT

    So why does pleading guilty make quite so much difference to the punishment? It's not as if it's saving significant amounts of court time and trauma for witnesses as in a criminal case.

    As much respect as I have for Punter's achievements as a batsman (and captain, though you could describe that as being lucky enough to have Warne and McGrath along with a team full of world class batsmen), he's showing his worst side here. It would have been kind of amusing had the match referee finished his career here, if as seems plausible he resigns or gets the shove after this series (I suspect the only thing that might save him from that is the weakness of the obvious replacements).

  • Dummy4 on December 27, 2010, 22:41 GMT

    What a travesty of justice, Ponting and Siddle bring the game into terrible disrepute, one gets fined a paltry $5400 and the other gets off scot-free. Why can't the match referees take a firm stand against Australians, what is it about them that gets them off so easily ?

  • Dummy4 on December 27, 2010, 22:39 GMT

    (contd)....his excellent decision making in the ashes so far and his(calm and composed) role in the whole ugly incident yesterday and then having the courage to call Johnson for a no ball correctly and still getting all the decisions right...very few umpires would have that sort of courage and judgement( especially when the opponent captain is as arrogant and unruly as ponting) and if that does not get him his. Hattrick of ICC umpire of the year award, I don't know what will. A brilliant job Mr dar, you were incredible and truly the top ranked umpire in the world .... Keep going for 3 more days...I always was a true fan of ur courage and umpiring especially avaunt the Aussies when I saw u first in the ashes 2005... Cheers

  • Dhurandhar on December 27, 2010, 22:35 GMT

    @ Yasser Yousufi: You are absolutely right. I remember some years ago, Ranjan Madugulle fined an Asian player severely for saying something on the field in Australi, but let the Australians go scott free even when they were raining expletives on the Asian team and were the ones to start the provocation. All that Ranjan Madugulle had to say was somethinng to the effect that "using expletives was the Australian players' way of life or a way of talking and what was a part of their life or vocabulary can not be taken against them. Therefore he did not reprimand them".

  • Daniel on December 27, 2010, 22:34 GMT

    I can only assume that the replay screen at the MCG has some damaged 'saturated' pixels near where the edge would have been. I can't think of any other reasonable occurrence to precipitate this turn of events. For everyone complaining that Asian cricketers always seem to end up with worse fines, it's an Asian Match Referee at the MCG. You'd think he'd be aware of the inconsistency!

  • Dummy4 on December 27, 2010, 22:30 GMT

    @legendmike: totally agree, except we can at least say benn was repeatedly involved in bad behaviour throughout and body contact hence the suspension somewhat was justified... Of course, haddin shd have got a more serious punishment for his role...coming back to yesterday, Ian chappel himself said that ponting has had a history of going after the umpires every now and then and taking his prev records into account he definitely shda been handed out at least a match ban.... But hey, maybe that's what the ref thought would be th harshest punishment since another failure inevitably looms for ponting at Sydney which shd ultimately lead to his getting the boot:p and @yasser: totally agree mate, I have been watching since ashes 2005 from when Shane warne and ricky ponting have been going at umpire dar for not getting wring decisions in their favour, something other umpires would be too scared to do.... I belive umpire aleem dar deserves a third consecutive umpire of the year on the basis of

  • Dhurandhar on December 27, 2010, 22:21 GMT

    I am an Indian and fan of Ponting and have respect and admiration for the guy. I have been watching the Ashes on the TV in the hope that I will be able to watch at least one magnificient knock from this modern day Australian legend. But what he did yesterday on field was despicable and reminded of the infamous 2008 Sydney test vs India where he acted as the Judge, Advocate, and Jury, raising fingers and passing out verdicts against Indian batters in case of dubious catches. Like then, he looked so silly yesterday. OK, let us think of what he was arguing for. He was saying that even though the TV Umpire decided KP was not out, Aleem Dar should overrule the TV Umpire and declare KP out because he (Ponting) believed it was out. Was this ever going to happen? Was Ponting out of his mind? I think it is not his fault. The Australians are so used to having it there way, right or wrong, so it was just his instinct playing out, forgetting that it is the age of TV Umpiring now.

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