Whatever happens now in the Ashes, one outcome is nailed on. By the time the series ends, Peter Siddle will be the man they love to hate. He made a deeply impressive start in Cardiff, stopping only just short of foaming at the mouth, and may rectify that at Lord's this week in the second Test.
Siddle is the sort of combative, paw-at-the-ground fast bowler, who loathes the sight of batsmen (especially English ones if early indications are any measure) and will do just about anything to remove them from his sight. He was wonderful to behold towards the end of the draw in Cardiff, almost a parody of the mean, ugly fast bowler.
He clashed with Stuart Broad after an edge for four and his shoulder came into contact with Broad's body twice as they passed each in other midwicket. If it was not quite a charge, it was far from an excuse me.
It was instructive, given that, to hear Ricky Ponting deliver his little homily about the spirit of the game when referring to England's alleged time-wasting tactics. It was as if hand-to-hand combat was morally superior to bringing on an unwanted spare pair of gloves.
A few overs after letting Broad know that he was not to be messed with, Siddle struck Graeme Swann three times in an over – on the hand, the arm and the helmeted head. Sensing that Swann did not like the short stuff, Siddle let him have plenty of it, a strategy that will undoubtedly continue for the rest of the series.
"We'll see how we go about pitching another one up to him in the series but I'm sure he'll have to wait for a few deliveries," he said yesterday, and smiled. It turns out that Siddle, 24, is not at all aggressive or truculent but something of a sweetheart. When he is confronted by a man with a bat he is transformed.
Siddle is known as Sid Vicious from his days at the Australian Academy, partly to differentiate him from the assistant coach, Jamie Siddons, but mostly because as he put it: "They reckon I get a bit fiery and the eyes go a bit red and I get going."
He learnt, of course, not from Sid Vicious whose anarchic music is a mystery to him, but from his fellow Victorian, Merv Hughes, the archetype of the snarling fast bowler. He grew up watching Hughes and his efforts to disturb batsmen, and it has rubbed off.
"That's what gets me going in the field," he said. "That's when I'm bowling at my best, when I'm fired up and charging in. The sooner it happens the better it is for the team. I'm very relaxed off the pitch, very laid-back, nothing really bothers me.
"I just go about my business but when I get on the field it's the state of mind I like to be in. That's when I feel at my most comfortable. But I feel like it's controlled. I watched Merv Hughes as a kid and I spent a lot of time growing up with him so there are a few similarities there."
Siddle is a country boy, like Glenn McGrath before him, and maybe his background is embodied in the fact that he is a champion woodchopper in a family of champion woodchoppers. But he has no axe to grind. He refuted the suggestion that there was anything untoward about his behaviour in Cardiff as the match approached its thrilling climax. On the subject of roughing up Swann in a dramatic over, he said: "It's just part of me. I like to go about that kind of stuff. Swann was pretty confident in the first innings and we probably didn't test him out as much as we would have liked.
"In the second innings we had that opportunity and, although the wicket was a bit flat, if you dug in you could have a good crack. We found that was a bit of a weakness but he toughed it out and he stuck around for a while. It was just good fun."
The placement of Siddle's shoulder into Broad's path seemed more of a delicate issue, but he had no troubles with it at all. "There was nothing to it. It's just part of the game. He had edged one and was running down the wicket and we were both watching the ball. It was just a little run-in, nothing to it, the commentators made it up a bit bigger."
Siddle revels in his new role and as he "copped a lot of grief in South Africa earlier this year" is already accustomed to it. The Welsh crowd regularly taunted him, though the spectators should be slightly more polite at Lord's.
"Growing up there were a few little dreams," he said. "The big one was playing for Australia but there were two grounds I wanted to play at. Being Victorian, one was always the MCG in a Boxing Day Test and I got that opportunity last year. The other was an Ashes series and at Lord's and to be able, hopefully, to fulfil them at such an early age is a great honour. All that tradition and history, it's just amazing." What a lovely guy.Reuse content