Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day

Siddle thrives on hard day's fight

As Australia grafted for wickets, Peter Siddle restated his immense value to the team

Daniel Brettig at Adelaide Oval

December 8, 2013

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Peter Siddle had Michael Carberry caught at long leg, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day, December 8, 2013
Peter Siddle made two key breakthroughs on a day of more-familiar toil for Australia's attack © PA Photos
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Twenty-four hours after Mitchell Johnson wrought havoc of biblical proportions at Adelaide Oval, 33,754 spectators and 11 Australia cricketers were reminded why such bursts are to be cherished in their rarity. Most Test cricket is far more attritional in nature, gains hard-won through hours of planning, application, agitation and the odd helping of fortune.

Johnson's incisions had cut the game open, but England would not allow their final 10 wickets to be extracted anywhere near as swiftly on what was now a dying pitch. Despite a brief reprise of Johnson's sudden impact when Alastair Cook hooked his third ball to fine leg, and the most unexpected gift of Ian Bell's wicket from a Steven Smith full toss, the major themes of the day were hard graft and ill temper.

The scant assistance offered by the surface was epitomised by the frustrated glare of Ryan Harris, who so far has only one wicket in the match to show for more than 30 overs of typical vigour. Nathan Lyon has found spin but less of the bounce or rhythm that so aided him in Brisbane. Even Johnson was taken down a notch or two from his earlier heroics, the slightest drop in pace from day three to day four granting England's batsmen a valuable fraction of extra time to play him - Matt Prior even hooking in front of square in the day's final over.

On both sides, the frustrations of the situation contributed to several ill-tempered conversations. Australia, so close to victory, did not take kindly at all to being held up. England, committed to obstructing their opponents' progress in whatever ways they could, returned serve. Joe Root, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Johnson all were involved at various times, including at the end of play. So menacing in his silence the day before, Johnson seemed fractionally less dangerous for having to resort to verbals.

It was decidedly handy in this atmosphere of war minus the shooting for the captain, Michael Clarke, to call on Peter Siddle for his most significant spells of the series. Across seven consecutive Ashes Tests of wildly fluctuating results, moods and conditions, Siddle has been a constant presence, his performances seldom gaining attention but always maintaining a standard Clarke can rely on. Most of all, Siddle has been the man most likely to dispose of Kevin Pietersen, and by doing so twice in Adelaide he has more than earned his match fee.

On-field temperature rises again

  • Australia have denied the frayed tempers on display as they sought to close out the second Ashes Test were any more pungent than in any other series, following a series of on-field exchanges that punctuated day four of the Adelaide Test.
  • Seldom did one of the day's 90 overs go by without some evidence of niggle between the teams, reaching a pitch towards the end of play when the captain, Michael Clarke, was engaged in discussion about fading light. Peter Siddle, who claimed two of six wickets to fall, was at pains to play down scenes that did nothing to dispel the notion that Australia and England are growing even further apart than usual.
  • "Pup walked in to have a look at the light and Broady was asking Mitch where to go for dinner tonight," Siddle said, grinning. "There wasn't a lot to it, it's no more than we've ever seen in the history of cricket. You can say what you want but, being out there, there wasn't much said at all. It's been a long day, a tough day and Mitch was trying to get the job done. That's all it was.
  • "I've played 48 Tests now and it hasn't been different, no matter who we've played. It's just part of the game. A long hard day, they're fighting to try and see where they can end up, we're fighting hard to get those 10 wickets and it was hard work today, we tried everything, and we need to freshen up tonight, come out tomorrow and get the job done."

The battles between Siddle and Pietersen served as a microcosm of the way the two days developed. In the first innings Siddle was brought on by Clarke for the specific task of constricting and defeating Pietersen, something he did not have to wait long for. Pietersen's disregard for field settings has at times brought moments of high class, as his wrists pierce the tiniest gaps between catching men. But this time, as in Brisbane, his pick-up from around off stump found one of the two midwickets Clarke had posted. Like the rest of England's first innings, it was a wicket sold too cheaply.

On day four, however, Pietersen did fight his urge to whip through the leg side. Siddle tried alternating balls wide of the stumps with the odd one angled in, and also varied his approach to the crease to create an angle encouraging the stroke. But Pietersen's bat continued to come through straight, defensive dead bats leaving the bowler to ponder another option. Pietersen strode to 53, helping himself to three sixes, but was then undone by Siddle's subtle movement either way, dragging on a ball moving back at him with his bat hung slightly wider in expectation of a mild curve towards the slips.

Siddle has now defeated Pietersen five times in the past seven Tests, and on nine occasions overall, a victory for the bowling tradesman over the batting aristocrat. "I love the challenge of bowling against a player of his experience and talent," Siddle said. "He's been a star player of Test cricket and I enjoy it. I try to keep patient, bowl in the right areas and been lucky enough, a few chop-ons always help. It was nice to get him today. Pup's always told us be ready for certain players. He's got ideas of who we want to bowl to, so at different stages we have. You know you do bowl better at some players and I think it does work."

The wicket of Michael Carberry had been collected earlier, courtesy of a short ball and a fine catch by Lyon in the deep. Siddle's wicket-taking trailed off towards the end of the previous Ashes series but his value to the team is well understood by everyone in it. "I was disappointed with how I finished off in England but that's done and dusted, don't have to worry about that now," he said. "We're going well as a team, I'm happy with how I'm bowling.

"As a unit we're bowling strong, and that's what we're all about. Mitch has had all the success up to now, but I think it's been the work from Ryano, myself, Nath, Watto, everyone involved that has built that pressure up, and we've got the wickets at his end. That makes it a lot easier for him if we can build the pressure and he can come on in short bursts at them."

The value of the collective is something Siddle has stressed many times before, notably during the 2011-12 summer when many of his best stints at the bowling crease against India went unrewarded, before a starburst of wickets in Adelaide gave him handsome final figures. Walking off the same oval on a day when the Australians had to scrap more thoroughly with England's batsmen than at any other time of the series so far, they had reason to value Siddle, a man for the hard occasion.

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

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Posted by ScottStevo on (December 9, 2013, 22:34 GMT)

@Shaggy076, well said, mate! I'm so sick of people ramming O'Keefe down our throats like he's the saviour to our spin department when your explanation of him sums him up absolutely perfectly! Funny, looking through a lot of previous posts, we tend to agree a lot. You must be very knowledegable! :)

Posted by Shaggy076 on (December 9, 2013, 5:48 GMT)

BarrytheH; Not many Shane Warnes come along and Lyon has been as good as any off-spinner that has ever played in Australia. Unfortunately you cant let go the Shane Warne impact, and realise that Lyon is doing a very serviceable job and fulfils an important role in the team. As for the Adelaide pitch how many wickets did Swann and Panesar get on the same wicket? I have never said he is superstar, but I can see the value he brings to our team.

Posted by BarrytheH on (December 9, 2013, 5:16 GMT)

Shaggy076, I admire you trying to pump-up the performances of Lyon but he is a very ordinary bowler. The Adelaide wicket should have suited him but his line and length are not up to Test standard. He is probably Australia's best spinner at the moment, but that's simply because we are in a lean period post Warne. However, to Lyon's credit, he is good in the field and has taken some terrific catches. I just wished he was a more penetrative bowler.

Posted by AidanFX on (December 9, 2013, 4:49 GMT)

As good as I have seen Australia field for some time. It was arguably the difference in the match. In close and outfielding was high caliber - and difficult catches in both parts of the ground were taken. That is one of the major areas that need to be of a high caliber if you are to push for number 1 Test nation.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (December 9, 2013, 4:39 GMT)

Gurudumu ; Do you realise Ahmed has just been dropped by Victoria after being towelled up numerous times this year. No one said Adelaide oval was going to be wickets galore for spin, just nothing in it for the paceman. It was a batsmans paradise. Lyons 6 wickets this series at average 35 is better than any other spinner to play in Australia (except S Warne). It cleans up Murali, Vettori, Ajmal, Ashwin, Harbhajan, Swann and many others. By the way all his 6 wickets have been of batsman, no tailenders, he is doing a very serviceable job. O Keefe is just another Doherty, except Doherty will get the occasional one to turn.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (December 9, 2013, 4:39 GMT)

Gurudumu ; Do you realise Ahmed has just been dropped by Victoria after being towelled up numerous times this year. No one said Adelaide oval was going to be wickets galore for spin, just nothing in it for the paceman. It was a batsmans paradise. Lyons 6 wickets this series at average 35 is better than any other spinner to play in Australia (except S Warne). It cleans up Murali, Vettori, Ajmal, Ashwin, Harbhajan, Swann and many others. By the way all his 6 wickets have been of batsman, no tailenders, he is doing a very serviceable job. O Keefe is just another Doherty, except Doherty will get the occasional one to turn.

Posted by BarrytheH on (December 9, 2013, 4:01 GMT)

The biggest advantage Australia has its fielding. It was outstanding in this Test, which is testimony to the skill and hard work of coaches such as Steve Rixon. If England had have taken its catches, and Australia dropped a few, then the result would probably have been reversed. Mind you, the English bowling has been pedestrian; Anderson and Swan - regarded as world-beaters - have been really disappointing.

Posted by Gurudumu on (December 9, 2013, 3:30 GMT)

Pattinson and Siddle ahead of Harris? This is the selection mentality that will have Australia no better than 3rd in Tests? I have said consistently, that Lyon is not the best spinner in Oz - he's behind O'Keefe and Ahmed. The selection politics dictate that Lyon stays in the team! What happened to all the talk that Adelaide was the ground where Lyon would get wickets galore? Was he even able to tie up and end? Give me a break - the selection is questionable.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 9, 2013, 3:18 GMT)

Siddle's got way more skill than most people give him credit for. He doesn't just run in and bowl. He's always working on something and as DB said, if the ONLY wicket he took was Pietersens it would still probably be worth having there. Lucky for us it's not just Pietersen he troubles though. He bowls well to everyone. .. Good on ya Pete.

Posted by Biggus on (December 9, 2013, 2:33 GMT)

@thectexperience:- You have to be joking. Harris has a bowling average under 22 and you don't think he would be part of our best bowling line up?

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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