England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day July 10, 2013

Siddle flicks switch to light way

His first spell mirrored an inauspicious start to the tour but Peter Siddle roared back and provided a template for the bowlers to follow

Peter Siddle started his day the way he had started this tour. Short on rhythm, variable in line and fickle in length, he landed at least two balls an over in places the batsmen would welcome, as Jonathan Trott and Joe Root helped themselves. Essentially, Siddle was re-enacting several of the displays he had offered for Australia A and then the touring party proper: a bowler in search of his best, but seemingly unsure of where to find it.

After four overs and 27 runs, Michael Clarke withdrew Siddle from the attack. At that moment many who had questioned Siddle's place in the team, despite his sustained displays of quality over the past 20 months, assumed a state of some justification. Was this another case of the Jason Gillespies? Clarke, and Australia, could not possibly afford it to be so.

Briefly, Siddle pondered his future at fine leg, no doubt heckled by some of the throatier members of an ample Nottingham crowd. But after two overs, Clarke summoned his most senior bowler again, switched around to the Radcliffe Road End. He had not been taken off, merely changed ends.

The break, and the change, gave Siddle a moment to think, and perhaps to focus. What did the circumstances require? Nothing short, nothing wide, nothing arrowing into the pads. Something that would swing, but also force Root to play. Something that would surprise him, and ideally dismiss him. Something to rouse Siddle from his early series slumber. Eureka! A yorker.

What Siddle sent down was to be the best encapsulation possible of how he has progressed since late 2011, when he was dropped from the team in Sri Lanka before redefining his capabilities with the help of Craig McDermott. Full, accurate, fast and swinging away just enough, it was through Root before England's latest opener had time to get his bat down. Even when he did, it was on a line not taking the swing into account. The bails were scattered, and Siddle exultant.

On the Australia balcony, the coach Darren Lehmann could feel somewhat satisfied too. He had challenged Siddle in the lead-up, arguing that no bowler could be allowed to mail in tour match displays and then assume everything would be fine when the big day arrived. Siddle had responded by upping his speed and direction considerably in the nets at Trent Bridge, enough for Brad Haddin to speak glowingly of his form. Lehmann described Siddle's effort in terms of leadership after his younger proteges James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc had sprayed the new ball.

"I think we needed that experienced head in the end, didn't we?" Lehmann said. "It's the first day of an Ashes series and it's pretty big, so for the younger guys they probably got overexcited with the new ball more than anything else and they understand that. But Peter stood up when it counted and did really well - five-for on the first day and led the attack as we expect him to do and got some really crucial wickets.

"He just bowled exactly as he wanted to and did it for us, apart from the first spell where he went around the park a little bit, but after that he locked in and was very good. We've got some high-class quicks in our squad, we've got five of them, so we've got to pick what is the best pace attack at each venue to get 20 wickets. So far we've got 10, we've got to get another 10 in this one and then we move to Lord's, so we can't look too far ahead but he was outstanding today and that's what we wanted from him."

Root's dismissal was to be followed up grandly, each successive batsman defeated by a ball that tempted and ultimately confounded. Kevin Pietersen's jumpy technique was exploited by a ball he was compelled to chase. Trott's patience was tested and ultimately broken by a full ball angled in from wide of the crease. Ian Bell was out to a ball almost the equal of Root's; angled in then curling nicely away. And Matt Prior's predilection for thrashing through the off side was artfully exploited with a shortish square cover and a fine overhead catch by Phillip Hughes.

These incisions reduced England from 78 for 1 to 180 for 6, and opened up a door that Pattinson and Starc would charge through to round up the innings for a mere 215. Siddle's performance was not his first barnstormer on the first day of an Ashes series - his hat-trick and 6 for 54 at the Gabba will remain indelible. But as a tone setter for the bowlers it was invaluable, providing his younger but more gifted counterparts a template by which to harry England for the rest of the series.

Australia's batting would then find familiar struggles under cloud that refused to shift and against bowling of similarly high quality. But as with England at Lord's in 2005, the less fancied team had demonstrated the vulnerability of the favourites, and that was largely due to Siddle. He will now hope that this Ashes tour will follow the pattern of his day, and his tour so far - an indifferent start, but a hell of a finish.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sam on July 15, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    @Ozcricketwriter: Which 3 wickets did Siddle get to bad balls? He was clearly bowling to their plans very well. Wicket balls aren't always ones that pitch on leg and hit off stump. The reason Trott was so angry in the first innings I think was because everyone who was watching knew they were trying to tempt him wide outside off and he fell for it. That showed you can be playing beautifully but if your head isn't in the right place you will lose your wicket. Same with Pieterson and Prior, both have great techniques but they often get out playing away from their body and Siddle was bowling to them with this in mind. That's why I think he is so successful, because he is an intelligent bowler. You have to be if you don't swing it much and don't have much pace. Remember, he is ranked above Anderson (though Anderson is clearly closer to #1 than the rankings show). You don't get those stats by "luck".

    Also Agar got Cook out and he would have finished with at least 3-for if Broad was given.

  • Randolph on July 11, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    I love how Siddle is still proving me wrnog. Well done mate. It does show that the tour games arent everything so maybe Warner can come in for Cowan

  • itch on July 11, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    I think the selectors were wrong with only one decision and that is that Bird should be playing instead of Starc. I can understand why they picked Agar and even if he doesn't preform well this test they will continue with him. He is good, young, needs time and can bat and field very well plus Swann's average at Trent Bridge is nothing good too. But Starc thinks test is like ODI's every ball has to be a wicket! He doesn't apply any pressure at the other end. When he gets a wicket he is good but then n every wicket is a lot of runs with him. Jackson Bird is very accurate and barely leaks runs which is very good and he can tick off wickets too by moving the ball both ways, albeit not like Starc but enough to get good wickets for almost no runs!

    DO YOU BLOKES OUT THERE AGREE???? Get Boof to read this and Get bird in and Starc out and Khwaja in and Cowan out (my reasoning for Khwaja and not Cowan is not for now)

  • Peter on July 11, 2013, 5:49 GMT

    @ Beertjie. He has won me as well. Just the way he puts in & given his all AND performed the past 3 years meant he had to be given a go. I agree, Rhino for Lords, Bird will be there at some time. In reality, all bowlers selected for this tour deserved it so I wouldn't mind any of them being selected. I am over MJ, there are at least 5 guys ahead of him back home plus the selected Ashes tourists. @ Ozcricketwriter Maybe tough in your mind, but he would have been the first selected with the selectors. Warm up games are not the be-all to select players (note Watson), prior form has to count for something & this is what Siddle had (Watson did not). I would have picked Lyon, but Agar is the future, so the gamble was played. I'll reserve judgment till he has played a number of tests.

  • Adrian on July 11, 2013, 2:01 GMT

    The decision to play Peter Siddle was a tough one, as Ryan Harris is back from injury and bowling well, but the question mark was whether Harris would last the 5 days. A second question mark was whether Siddle, who looked out of form in the warm ups, would rediscover his form on the cricket pitch. I think ultimately Siddle was played because they were worried that Harris could break down mid test. It was a risk and Siddle bowled some absolute rubbish out there, but with 3 wickets to bad balls he got some luck on his side. It happens in cricket and good luck for him. Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson bowled better but had less luck with edges just missing the stumps and LBW decisions turned down, even on review. The real question shouldn't be the risk to play Siddle but rather the risk to play Ashton Agar. Agar looked out of his depth out there and didn't look like taking a wicket. Why wasn't Jackson Bird playing?

  • Mashuq on July 11, 2013, 1:33 GMT

    @Chris-_P, I was a Siddle-knocker who now backs him unreservedly! I'd still like Bird and Harris in the team sooner rather than later, but Siddle is #1 pick.

  • Vikram on July 10, 2013, 23:14 GMT

    The coach says, "we can't look too far ahead ", and that is exactly what the author is doing. We will find out soon if it is a "mere 215", or "more than enough 215".

  • Peter on July 10, 2013, 22:56 GMT

    Wonder where all the Peter Siddle knockers are? Yep, hang all your selection on some warm up games against standard .pposition, lets forget his efforts the past 3 years. Same for Watson, he is out worst performing player for the past 3 years yet many continue t nominate him in their preferred team.