Ryan Sidebottom is a man behind his time and England should be hugely thankful for it. The modern game, with all its coaches, tactics, analysts and hype, likes to believe that change equals improvement, but Sidebottom continues to prove the theory wrong by exhibiting the virtues of bowling that have stood the test of time: line, length and a bloody big heart.
In today's world such qualities do not sound particularly sexy, but a bowler who remains competitive no matter the state of the pitch or the match situation, and can consistently land the ball on a good length on or just outside off-stump, has the potential to go a long way. Achieving these basic skills sounds simple, but it is not. They take years of hard work to acquire, but once a player has them he possesses a game that will make him competitive most days of his career.
Where England would be in the series without Sidebottom barely warrants thinking about and in New Zealand's first innings he was the star again, taking career-best figures of 7 for 47 as the Black Caps lost their last nine wickets for the addition of just 65 runs. The haul took his series tally to 23, a total that makes him England's most successful bowler on a tour of New Zealand. His excellence took him past Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough, both of whom took 19 wickets here in 1996-97 and 2001-02 respectively.
Sidebottom's display here in Napier was by far his most important of the tour. In the first Test in Hamilton the 30-year-old's hat-trick and 10-wicket haul were in vain because England lost. In the second at Basin Reserve second-innings figures of 5 for 105 helped England to victory, but New Zealand were always unlikely to chase down the huge target set them, and James Anderson or Stuart Broad would probably have taken wickets had Sidebottom failed.
Here, though, England's hopes of winning their first overseas series in three years were about to disappear into nearby Hawkes Bay when Vaughan tossed Sidebottom the ball after lunch. After dismissing England for 253 the Black Caps had cruised to 93 for 1, smashing Anderson and Broad all around the ground.
Vaughan's ambition was limited to begin with. The England captain positioned deep fielders on each side of the ground to cut off Stephen Fleming's boundary-scoring options and in an attempt to regain some control he started with Paul Collingwood. But then Fleming, on 59, wafted at a short of a length ball from Sidebottom and edged a catch to Collingwood.
The pitch and the overhead conditions offered the bowlers little assistance so Sidebottom, at the request of Vaughan, opted to bowl round the wicket. The ploy brought immediate success when Jamie How drove loosely at a widish delivery and edged to Andrew Strauss at first slip.
Broad dismissed Ross Taylor with a beauty before Brendon McCullum was bowled by Sidebottom playing an atrocious shot. Sidebottom, Broad, Tim Southee and Chris Martin have all bowled well, but the quality of batting on the opening two days of the Test has been appaling. Much of it has not been worthy of Test status.
Grant Elliott became Sidebottom's sixth victim when he edged a tentative push to the keeper before Broad increased his wicket count to three.
England's hero returned to dismiss Daniel Vettori. The New Zealand captain stormed from the pitch as Sidebottom received a standing ovation. Vettori knew that a golden opportunity to win a series had been wasted.
The inadequacies of the New Zealand batsmen should not detract from Sidebottom's achievement. With his curly locks flowing behind him and roared on by the Barmy Army, he charged in for an entire session, stretching every sinew as he pushed his body to the limit. Sidebottom's action is never pretty, especially when he gets a little tired, but like a Volvo he just keeps going and going, taking 5 for 33 in 13 overs between lunch and tea.
"I think the old-fashioned virtues of line and length are underestimated," admitted the ever modest Sidebottom. "I don't bowl at 88 or 90 mph and I have never bowled any different to what I am now in my career. I have just tried to get the ball in the right area, and if it swings or seams around a little bit you are always in with a chance. It is going well for me here, the whole thing is surreal, but I have not changed anything I do from Sri Lanka before Christmas when I was struggling for wickets. Some days you get your nicks, some days you don't.
"It was my most pleasing day of Test cricket, especially as our backs were against the wall at one stage. At lunch we were extremely disappointed. We didn't have a telling off but Peter Moores [the England coach] got us all together and told us basically to pull our fingers out because the match was slipping away from us early in the Test."
Sidebottom would not have needed the reminder; players with his traits never take anything for granted. If a few of his team-mates can follow his example the England team may once again become a side to be feared.
England won toss
England – First innings
A N Cook b Martin 2
28 mins, 21 balls
*M P Vaughan lbw b Southee 2
15 mins, 11 balls
A J Strauss c How b Southee 0
8 mins, 6 balls
K P Pietersen c How b Southee 129
294 mins, 208 balls, 12 fours, 1 six
I R Bell c and b Elliott 9
68 mins, 58 balls, 1 four
P D Collingwood c Elliott b Patel 30
96 mins, 82 balls, 6 fours
+T R Ambrose c Taylor b Patel 11
39 mins, 38 balls, 1 four
S C J Broad c McCullum b Southee 42
127 mins, 103 balls, 5 fours, 1 six
R J Sidebottom c Bell b Southee 14
60 mins, 37 balls, 1 four
M S Panesar b Martin 1
14 mins, 13 balls
J M Anderson not out 0
2 mins, 1 ball
Extras (b 0, lb 9, w 3, nb 1) 13
Total (380 mins, 96.1 overs) 253
Fall: 1-4 (Vaughan), 2-4 (Strauss), 3-4 (Cook), 4-36 (Bell), 5-125 (Collingwood), 6-147 (Ambrose), 7-208 (Pietersen), 8-240 (Broad), 9-253 (Panesar), 10-253 (Sidebottom).
Bowling: Martin 26-6-74-2 (w2) (9-3-16-1, 6-1-17-0, 3-0-22-0, 8-2-19-1), Southee 23.1-8-55-5 (w1) (7-3-6-2, 3-1-9-0, 6-2-16-0, 7.1-2-24-3), Elliott 10-2-27-1 (5-1-10-1, 5-1-17-0), Vettori 19-6-51-0 (9-2-32-0, 4-2-4-0, 6-2-15-0), Patel 18-3-37-2 (nb1) (one spell).
Progress: First day: 50: 113 min, 27.2 overs. Lunch: 58-4 (Pietersen 43, Collingwood 1) 30 overs. 100: 162 min, 40.5 overs. 150: 240 mins, 62 overs. Tea: 150-6 (Pietersen 90, Broad 1) 62 overs. 200: 301 mins, 79.1 overs. New ball taken after 81 overs at 205-6. Close: 240-7 (Broad 42, Sidebottom 3) 92 overs. Second day: 250: 372 mins, 94.2 overs. Innings closed 10.49am.
Pietersen 50: 105 mins, 74 balls, 4 fours. 100: 235 mins, 163 balls, 10 fours.
New Zealand – First innings
J M How c Strauss b Sidebottom 44
129 mins, 73 balls, 8 fours
M D Bell lbw b Sidebottom 0
2 mins, 2 balls
S P Fleming c Collingwood b Sidebottom 59
98 mins, 72 balls, 9 fours, 1 six
M S Sinclair c Broad b Sidebottom 7
38 mins, 31 balls, 1 four
L R P L Taylor c Ambrose b Broad 2
7 mins, 4 balls
G D Elliott c Ambrose b Sidebottom 6
36 mins, 24 balls
+B B McCullum b Sidebottom 9
14 mins, 8 balls, 2 fours
*D L Vettori c Cook b Sidebottom 14
73 mins, 32 balls, 1 four
T G Southee c Pietersen b Broad 5
23 mins, 20 balls, 1 four
J S Patel c Panesar b Broad 4
25 mins, 25 balls
C S Martin not out 4
4 mins, 1 ball, 1 four
Extras (b 0, lb 13, w 1, nb 0) 14
Total (229 mins, 48.4 overs) 168
Fall: 1-1 (Bell), 2-103 (Fleming), 3-116 (How), 4-119 (Taylor), 5-119 (Sinclair), 6-137 (McCullum), 7-138 (Elliott), 8-152 (Southee), 9-164 (Patel), 10-168 (Vettori).
Bowling: Sidebottom 21.4-6-47-7 (7-4-10-1, 14.4-2-37-6), Anderson 7-1-54-0 (5-1-27-0, 2-0-27-0), Broad 17-3-54-3 (w1) (4-0-22-0, 13-3-32-3), Panesar 1-1-0-0, Collingwood 2-2-0-0 (one spell each).
Progress: Second day: 50: 61 mins, 13.3 overs. Lunch: 93-1 (How 30, Fleming 56) 20 overs. 100: 94 min, 20.5 overs. 150: 195 mins, 41.4 overs. Tea: 155-8 (Vettori 10, Patel 1) 45 overs. Innings closed 3.47pm.
Fleming 50: 73 min, 53 balls, 8 fours, 1 six.
England – Second innings
A N Cook c McCullum b Patel 37
98 mins, 69 balls, 7 fours
*M P Vaughan c McCullum b Martin 4
4 mins, 4 balls, 1 four
A J Strauss not out 42
116 mins, 93 balls, 5 fours
K P Pietersen not out 7
22 mins, 26 balls, 1 four
Extras (b 0, lb 1, w 0, nb 0) 1
Total (2 wkts, 121 mins, 32 overs) 91
Fall: 1-5 (Vaughan), 2-77 (Cook).
To bat: I R Bell, P D Collingwood, +T R Ambrose, S C J Broad, R J Sidebottom, M S Panesar, J M Anderson.
Bowling: Martin 6-2-23-1 (one spell), Southee 6-3-18-0 (5-3-9-0, 1-0-9-0), Elliott 4-0-19-0 (one spell), Patel 9-1-14-1 (2-0-5-0, 7-1-9-1), Vettori 7-0-16-0 (one spell).
Progress: Second day: 50: 62 min, 14.3 overs.
Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and R E Koertzen (SA).
TV replay umpire: G A V Baxter (NZ).
Match referee: J Srinath (India).
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