Ryan Sidebottom admitted he had no idea how to react after becoming the 11th Englishman to take a Test hat-trick during an extraordinary fourth day's play of the first Test in Hamilton. Sidebottom struck three times in three balls en route to career-best figures of 5 for 37, as New Zealand lost six wickets for 20 runs to finish the day on a precarious 147 for 8. Nevertheless, with a handy lead of 122 on first innings, Sidebottom was aware his hard work isn't over just yet.
"I suppose I'll remember it for as long as I'm alive," said Sidebottom, who achieved the feat in front of his father, the former England paceman, Arnie. "I've never had a hat-trick before and getting one in a Test match is even more special. It hasn't really sunk in yet, but it's not just about me. We want to win Test matches and it's a big day for us tomorrow.
"We said in the dressing-room if we got two or three early wickets we might be right back in it because they'd come out to play a few shots," said Sidebottom. "Daniel Vettori will be a key wicket, he's in good nick, but if we can open up an end and get Chris Martin in, the onus is on us to play well. In the first hour we've got to be right on the money."
Sidebottom may ply his trade for Nottinghamshire these days, but he began his career at Yorkshire, where he shared a dressing-room with each of the last two Englishmen to record Test hat-tricks. Darren Gough achieved his at Sydney during the 1998-99 Ashes, while Matthew Hoggard emulated the feat five years later in Barbados, during England's 3-0 victory in the Caribbean.
"Goughy always likes a bit of a chirp in the dressing-room, and he used to talk about his hat-tricks," said Sidebottom. "You always dream of doing it and I don't know what to say to be honest. I've not taken a hat-trick at any level before - I've been on one two or three times in my career, but I've never got one before."
Sidebottom was in fact on a hat-trick at the start of New Zealand's innings, after dismissing Jeetan Patel and Chris Martin with consecutive deliveries in the first innings, but he had not been aware of the opportunity. "I was just concentrating on hitting the right areas," he explained. "The Kookaburra [ball] doesn't swing for very long."
It was, however, reverse swing that did the trick for Sidebottom, as he tailed a perfect off-stump delivery into Jacob Oram's front pad to trap him plumb lbw. Once the appeal had been upheld by umpire Daryl Harper, he hurtled off in the direction of midwicket where he was smothered by his jubilant team-mates.
"Swanny [Graeme Swann, a substitute fielder at mid-off] said he'd do a few things to me if I got the hat-trick," said Sidebottom. "I didn't think the umpire would put the finger up, but when he did I just ran away like a bit of a headless chicken."
Sidebottom's first two wickets were both to excellent catches in the gully from Alastair Cook, but ever the team man, he was more concerned with passing the praise to England's batsmen, Paul Collingwood and Tim Ambrose, whose 90-run stand for the seventh wicket had set the game up for his grandstand performance.
"They fought so hard," said Sidebottom. "Timmy was fantastic on his debut, it wasn't easy and he showed a lot of patience. It's going to be difficult [to chase in the fourth innings], their guys are in good form and bowling really well. But we've still got to get two wickets and then see what the score is."
One man who wasn't surprised by Sidebottom's success was his county captain, Stephen Fleming, who also happened to be the first of the hat-trick victims. "He is deserving of that and he's a great guy," said Fleming. "He has worked incredibly hard and I have known for some time the qualities he possesses and he has shown that consistently for some time so our dressing-room is not surprised.
"In a way it's spectacular to see a hat-trick as well," he added. "It has breathed some life into the game that was meandering along. We were the only team to be positive enough to do it to create this opportunity, so from that point of view England must be pretty pleased they have given themselves a chance. We knew that would have to be the case if we were to win this match."