Peter Siddle may be a vegetarian amid a pack of voracious fast-bowling carnivores but he is still excited by the smell of blood. In his case, Kevin Pietersen’s blood.
The key to the England top order, whose previous visits to the Adelaide Oval brought scores of 158 and a career-high 227, Pietersen has been unlocked by the tireless Australian seamer. Siddle claimed him for the ninth time yesterday – making him Pietersen’s greatest Test nemesis – with the pivotal wicket in Australia’s bid to secure the second Test.
“I love the challenge of bowling to a player of his experience and talent,” Siddle said after bowling Pietersen for 53. “He has been a star player in Test cricket.”
Employing the simple method of maintaining a disciplined line just outside off stump and banging the ball in to a length or slightly shorter, Siddle has become Pietersen’s greatest threat.
Pietersen took the seamer on in the first innings but perished when he could not thread the needle between two catchers at midwicket. He was less culpable in the second innings but contributed to his own downfall by dragging a defensive stroke back on to his stumps.
“I try to keep it patient and keep it in the right areas but I have been lucky with a few chop-ons too,” Siddle admitted.
Siddle has now claimed Pietersen five times in their past 14 meetings and while the relationship is not as fraught as that between Arthur Morris and Alec Bedser, or, increasingly, Chris Rogers and Graeme Swann, it has the makings of a hoodoo.
Siddle will never have the muscle and menace of Mitchell Johnson or the subtle movement and irrepressible impact of Ryan Harris but the trio work together as well as any three modern-day Australian quicks.
Siddle knows that his role is to be the anvil for the hammer blows of the other two. He relishes the part: he attracts limited glory, regularly leaves work with dirt under his fingernails and is invariably the first to put his hand up to volunteer for the necessary but unglamorous hackwork late in the day or when the ball is old and going gun-barrel straight.
That was evident yesterday, when Harris was held back for much of the day to await the second new ball while Johnson’s ability to bowl in lethal bursts had much to do with Siddle clearing his path.
“It comes back to our partnerships,” Siddle said with no false modesty about his contribution. “The partnerships with the ball have been tremendous throughout this series. We have been building that pressure, building the dots, maidens, and then getting the wickets at either end.
“Mitch Johnson has had all the success up until now but as a unit we’re bowling strong.We’ve got the wickets at his end but it makes it a lot easier on him if we’re building the pressure and he can come on in short bursts and have a crack at them.”