Toiler's luck finally changes
Sunday 09 March 2008
Ryan Sidebottom is unlikely to be remembered as one of England's all-time great bowlers. Time is not on his side. He is 30 and is not a natural athlete. Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison, the two bowlers he has carried for the past year, do not have to fear that he will surpass their tally of victims.
But what Sidebottom has made since reclaiming his England place against West Indies last June is a huge impression, even before yesterday, when he became the 11th England bowler to take ahat-trick in Test cricket. In the10 Tests he has played since reselection, he has shown what fast-medium bowling is about.
It is great to be able to bowl at electrifying speed and swing the ball round corners, but most bowlers do not have those weapons in their armoury.The majority of pacemen try to make the most of what they have, get on with the job and do the best they can. That is what Sidebottom does.
Many top sportsmen are high- maintenance. Dealing with them is like dealing with a catwalk model, all moods, money and me. They demand that everything is right, and if it is not a little tantrum is thrown. But there is nothing haughty about Sidebottom – he just works his socks off in the nets and gives it his all in the middle.
With him, life is honest and simple. He is extremely proud to represent his country and plays every game as though it could be his last. His father, Arnie, the former Yorkshire and England bowler, was exactly the same.
I would suggest Sidebottom is a slightly different bowler to the one that played for Nottinghamshire in 2005, when he claimed 50 wickets at an average of 22 to guide his side to the County Championship. Duncan Fletcher, England's previous coach, refused to pick him because he said he was not quick enough. As Arnie wonderfully said this week: "Fletcher rated bowlers who bowled at 85mph but he didn't rate those who bowled at the stumps."
At Trent Bridge, Sidebottom claimed most of his wickets through swing and accuracy, even though he has been the fastest bowler in England's side this week, averaging three miles an hour more than Harmison.
The extra effort required to produce that pace has probably prevented Sidebottom swinging the ball as he did, but that is no bad thing. Swing is a wonderful option for a bowler, but the majority of Test cricket's most successful fast bowlers have been tall, aggressive men who hit the pitch as hard as they can with the ball. Such an approach increases the chance of indifferent bounce, and it is bounce combined with accuracy that allowed the likes of Curtly Ambrose, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock and Courtney Walsh to take most of their scalps.
Before yesterday, Sidebottom was seen as an unlucky bowler. Against India last summer and on England's pre-Christmas tour of Sri Lanka, he had numerous catches dropped and little went his way. But he has been around long enough to know that fortune will change and things will even themselves out, and that is just what happened as he took 5 for 37 in 14 overs.
The Hoggard catch that got him going was an absolute beauty, but a fast bowler does not expect to take Test wickets at deep midwicket. The two deliveries that dismissed Stephen Fleming and Matthew Sinclair were ordinary too. It was the catches that were special, especially Alastair Cook's catch that dismissed Sinclair – it was an absolute cracker.
The hat-trick ball was the best of the lot; it was straight and would have hit the top of middle and off. Sidebottom deserved his luck and England are luckyto have him.
Six of the best
England's last half-dozen hat-tricks:
1. Tom Goddard v South Africa, Johannesburg 1938-39 (victims A D Nourse, N Gordon, W W Wade)
2. Peter Loader v West Indies, Headingley 1957 (J D C Goddard, S Ramadhin, R Gilchrist)
3. Dominic Cork v West Indies,Old Trafford 1995 (R B Richardson, J R Murray, C L Hooper)
4. Darren Gough v Australia,Sydney 1998-99 (I A Healy, S C G MacGill, C R Miller)
5. Matthew Hoggard v West Indies, Barbados 2003-04 (R R Sarwan,S Chanderpaul, R O Hinds)
6. Ryan Sidebottom v New Zealand, Hamilton 2007-08 (S P Fleming,M S Sinclair, J D P Oram).
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