Sidebottom back in the swing

The Notts seamer aims to shine in the shorter forms of the game after he could only watch England win the Ashes, writes David Lloyd
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The Independent Online

A spectacular rise was followed by a shuddering fall. But now, after a summer spent watching his team-mates win back the Ashes, there are signs that Ryan Sidebottom is on the way up again.

Having bowled with great control and plenty of intelligence during Sunday's first Twenty20 international, the left-arm paceman should be a certainty for tonight's second, and final, 40-over thrash at Old Trafford – provided his injury problems really are a thing of the past and he feels as fit as he looked 48 hours earlier when rain curtailed England's attempt to better Australia's 145 for four.

Sidebottom has long been one of sport's most easily identifiable performers. After all, fading into the background is not really an option when your hair resembles one of those tangled bushes last seen being blown through the Wild West. But, for 12 months or so, it was the quality of his cricket that caught everyone's eye and gave the game a great story.

Like father Arnie, who appeared once during the Ashes series of 1985, Ryan seemed destined to remain a fully paid up member of the "one-Test wonder" club, having been handed his cap in 2001 when Pakistan were visiting. But then, six years later, Sidebottom Jnr was recalled, pretty much out of the blue, and what followed would not have been out of place in a book of fairytales.

From a standing start, the Yorkshireman who moved south to Notts captured 70 wickets in just 15 Tests, including a hat-trick against New Zealand in Hamilton, and was named – to widespread approval – England's Cricketer of the Year in May 2008.

Sidebottom had just entered his 30s but, in cricketing terms, a star was born. Yet, just as quickly, feast turned to famine with one injury after another being largely responsible for limiting the swing and seam bowler to five Test appearances out of a possible 16 since the middle of last year and removing him from the one-day international team altogether until last week's trip to Ireland.

"It's been really tough and very frustrating," said Sidebottom, who has been laid low by back, Achilles and rib muscle problems. "I've been at home watching games with England winning and the bowlers performing well. Obviously you don't want others getting injured or guys not doing well but from a selfish point of view it is pretty gutting. I want to play as much as possible and I want to do well for England so now I'm just happy to be back, fit and well, and in the squad again."

Although not part of the Ashes-winning team, Sidebottom – through taking wickets and bowling plenty of overs for Notts – did put his name in the frame at both Headingley and The Oval, only to miss out when England's selectors decided to recall Steve Harmison and keep faith with Stuart Broad. Both decisions looked spot on by the end of the series, too. "The guys did really well and it was great to watch them so I cannot complain at all," said the 12th man from the fourth and fifth Tests.

"But I still feel as though I have a lot to offer. The Test arena guys have put in a great team performance but it is my job to keep plugging away. And these one-dayers are vitally important [seven 50-over internationals against Australia follow tonight's Twenty20], then straight away there is the Champions Trophy in South Africa. We want to be No 1 in all areas, including Twenty20 and one-dayers. That is our aim and something we have talked about.

"And in terms of this summer it would be ideal to beat Australia in all forms of the game and send them home not having won anything. That's great motivation."

Although England reckoned they still fancied their chances on Sunday when the rain arrived with the score four for two, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson had shown enough over seven legitimate deliveries to confirm that the Aussies have absolutely no intention of going home empty handed.

Joe Denly and Ravi Bopara, bounced out by the 90 mph men, can expect more of the same tonight. "That will be something we have to overcome – they are going to come pretty hard at us," said captain Paul Collingwood. "Hopefully we don't lose too many wickets too early when the pitches have some bounce and carry."

Collingwood insists that England will continue to support Bopara, who must have hoped he had turned a corner when scoring a double century for Essex after being left out of the final Ashes Test. Instead, the young batsman made a duck against Ireland and then managed only a single in the first Twenty20.

These are tough times for Bopara. But he need look no farther than Sidebottom for confirmation that there is always a way back to the top.

Out of the Ashes: The men who missed out

Adil Rashid Although he has yet to play a Test for England, Rashid was the name on many people's lips at the start of the Ashes, especially as Monty Panesar, England's second spinner, was in such poor form. To no avail.

Owais Shah An England Test player as recently as March against West Indies, Shah spent the summer with Middlesex despite the national side's repeated batting troubles. His moderate performance in that Trinidad Test hints at why he failed to pique the selectors' interest during the Ashes: he hit 33 and 1 while Strauss, Collingwood, Prior and Pietersen struck centuries.

Ryan Sidebottom A spiky, whole-hearted performer, Sidebottom could almost have been designed to tackle Australians. Nonetheless, the call never came during the Test series and he'll be aiming to show England what they missed in the short stuff.