The Investec Ashes 2013

Will Siddle be all right on the night?

Daniel Brettig in Nottingham

July 8, 2013

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Peter Siddle grabbed a five-for, Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 3rd day, December 16, 2012
Peter Siddle has been a high-class performer for Australia over the past 18 months © AFP
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Question: who is the ICC's top-ranked bowler among those about to contest this Investec Ashes series? Answer: Peter Siddle.

A lofty perch of fifth in the world, above even Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson, quantifies exactly how well Siddle has sustained his quality over the past 18 months, and why much of the speculation about his place in the Australian Test side has been just that. Some quiet displays for Australia A and the touring party before the team bus reached Nottingham were a source of mild concern, but there was a distinct sense of moving through the gears about how Siddle drove through the crease on the tourists' first training day at Trent Bridge.

Australia's vice-captain Brad Haddin faced Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc as the selectors' apparent preferred attack built up considerable pace and notable swing. Having watched Siddle throughout the trip - he was also captain of Australia A - Haddin spoke unstintingly of the Victorian as not only a guaranteed starter but the most pivotal member of the Australian pace battery.

"He's a pretty seasoned campaigner so he cranked it up a bit leading into the Test match. He'll be ready to go," Haddin said. "He knows exactly how to get up for a Test match and his preparation has been spot on since we got here with the A tour. His experience and his ranking in the world shows he is a very consistent performer at this level.

"I think you can judge different players by where they're at in their careers. Sometimes guys need to get some wickets and feel confident going into big games but Siddle, he's proved himself over a long time now. He knows exactly where he's at. I wouldn't read too much into the actual stats of the A tour and the two tour games here.

"He knows what to do to get right for a Test. He knows what to do to get through and win Tests. He's a class act and has been for a long time. We can dance around the issue but he's our most experienced bowler and he's proven at this level."

For his part, Siddle has acknowledged he did not bowl well against Somerset, but he is far from the first senior pace bowler to deliver an indifferent display in a tour match. The question now is whether Siddle can ramp up his speed, rhythm and swing on cue at Trent Bridge, where his durability will be a vital counterpoint to the youthful fury of Pattinson and Starc.

Craig McDermott, who was instrumental in Siddle's evolution from wrecking ball to something more accomplished during his stint as Australia's bowling coach from 2011-12, expected his pupil would be capable of lifting himself at precisely the right moment.

"Sids has been our best and most consistent bowler for the last two years and is a big game player," McDermott told ESPNcricinfo. "He knows his game very well but like most people needs to be reassured on occasions. He needs to bowl fourth and fifth stump and full, finish off his action properly - pace will follow from there - and he will be fine. I'm backing him to do well."

Australia will hope Siddle goes the way of McDermott's old pace partner Merv Hughes, who shrugged off an indifferent start to the 1993 tour to deliver a lionhearted series for Allan Border, rather than that of Jason Gillespie, never a factor in 2005 after his form and confidence ebbed away early.

"I know I was off my game," Siddle told the Age last week of his Taunton display. "In a way, they do know what I can do, but I still have to show in these next few training sessions that I'm up and about, that it's coming out well and I'm ready to go for that first Test. I think no matter who plays the first one, it's not going to be the line-up that finishes it off at the end. All five of us, even six with Jimmy Faulkner in there, are a massive chance of playing throughout this series."

Of those six, only Siddle knows what it means to be on the losing end of an England tour. It is worth noting that in 2009, as a much less precise operator than he is today, Siddle still managed to scoop 20 wickets, striking every 48.5 deliveries. The painful memories of that defeat, arriving in the final Test of a series punctuated by missed Australian opportunities, have stayed with Siddle, just as they have with Haddin.

"You can't get rid of them, no matter what you try to do," Haddin said. "Sitting in The Oval losing the Ashes, it hurts. And there's only one way you can get that back, and that's by getting that urn back. I don't use that hurt or anything as motivation, you don't need much more motivation than coming over on this campaign, but it does hurt and it will hurt forever I think. So I'd love to win this one to take a little bit of that hurt away."

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

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Posted by   on (July 11, 2013, 4:41 GMT)

@R_U_4_REAL_NICK Yeah you are right...Jackson Bird should of played instead of Mitchell Starc. Darren Lehmann's influence on selection has been found wanting in many ways. Agar...WTF? Anyways if Bird had played; Australia would of been able to control Englands scoring rate a lot better and consequently could of shaved a further 70-80 Runs of Englands total bowling in tandem with Siddle. Lehmann and the selectors are jumping at shadows instead of playing their best team and are trying to pull rabbits out of a hat when none are needed. Lyon if played probably would of had wickets next to his name also. The problem with Starc is it takes him too long into a match to find his best form.

Posted by Chris_P on (July 11, 2013, 3:04 GMT)

@H_Z_O. Yes, where are the Siddle knockers? Agree with you, Siddle may not have the class or talent of many others, but he is 100% heart & never gives up, he never lets a poor spell get him down (his first spell a good example). And you're right, who wouldn't have the grit & tenacity of someone like him in their bowling line-up? Not too bad for a Victorian I concede *G*. Having seen both Goughy & Anderson, give me Gough every time. He has Siddle like qualities, plus more talented & a HUGE heart, just my take on the pair, although not knocking Anderson at all.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (July 10, 2013, 20:52 GMT)

His five-fer today aside, you really can't keep a guy like this out of the team anyway - especially when the replacements are mostly short-spell specialists. The only other guy Aus. have whom I reckon is inexplicably overlooked for tests, and could replace Siddle like-for-like in terms of robustness and effort is... Clint McKay. Bird also looks promising, but I see him more as a suitable replacement for Starc.

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 10, 2013, 19:01 GMT)

I take it back. Goughie's clearly better than Anderson. Jimmy took four balls to get Clarke out. Goughie would have had him out first ball. Not like the man scored two back to back double centuries against the best pace bowling attack in the world, is it? Nah, any "average" bowler could get him out for a fourth ball duck.

That was almost literally an unplayable delivery to get out an Australian captain in an Ashes Test, an Australian captain who averaged 106 in the last calendar year. If that makes Gough a "far gutsier competitor" under pressure then I'm the Queen.

And I'm not saying that to demean Siddle, by the way. I said all along, and stand by this, that he absolutely has to play for you guys. And while Pattinson was wayward, there was some scary stuff too (though Cook really should have left that).

Rogers was unlucky to be out (should have had the benefit of the doubt) but the third ump couldn't overturn it.

Good absorbing day's cricket. Looking forward to more of the same.

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 10, 2013, 15:54 GMT)

In answer to the headline, a resounding "Yes". This is the kind of performance that makes Siddle a captain's dream, and this is exactly why I'd have him in my England team any day of the week. He never lets up, keeps the pressure on batsmen and it inevitably leads to batsmen playing rash shots (KP, Trott and Prior are all guilty).

Combined with a few absolute peaches (Root) he's a constant threat.

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 10, 2013, 14:39 GMT)

Wonder if those calling for Siddle to be left out are reconsidering right about now?

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 10, 2013, 9:59 GMT)

@Jono Makim Goughie was a competitor, make no mistake, and I rate him highly amongst England bowlers. Notice I didn't say comparing him to Anderson was an insult (because it isn't).

There was a long period of time where Harmison, in particular, was favoured just because he bowled 90 miles an hour. Didn't matter that he sprayed it. Imagine if the selectors left Bird behind and picked Mitchell Johnson instead. Exactly.

Hoggard, on the other hand, deserved to play those Tests but his record doesn't match up, and he'd be the first to admit Anderson's a better bowler. In fact the really funny thing is most of the guys you've been saying are better, among his contemporaries, have consistently said he's a better bowler.

@Meety yeah, I can agree with that, but would you rate Kallis amongst the top 10 greatest all-rounders? What about Tendulkar amongst batsmen? What about Botham and Willis amongst English bowlers? Both have said Anderson's better. That says it all, in my opinion.

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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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