Hail Peter, the rock upon which we built this Aussie Test team

Edward L'Orange Roar Pro

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    The time of Peter Siddle has past. It pains me (if no one else) to say it, but it is true.

    Technically, he could perform so impressively in the shield that he demands selection. But, as it stands, with James Pattinson, Chris Tremain, Scott Boland and Jon Holland, he may not even get a state game.

    The likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Jackson Bird… the list goes on. These young stallions have displaced the old war horse, it’s just the way it is.

    But with this in mind, I would like to reflect on what made Siddle my favourite bowler, and remember him as a rock in a testing time for Australian fast bowling.

    Peter Mathew Siddle, the woodchopping Victorian, made his Test debut in Mohali, in the second match of the 2008 Border-Gavaskar trophy. Not the most encouraging place for a paceman, but his control and aggression earned him a call-up to replace an injured Stuart Clark.

    He made 4-176 in a one-sided affair, which Australia lost by 320 runs.

    However, later that year, Siddle took his chance for a good run in the team. With Clark’s extended absence, and the fragile foot of Brett Lee ending his career, Siddle made his position permanent.

    The next few years saw the birth of a key man for Australian cricket. Results from that period were mixed at best, but what seemed clear is that we had finally found an aggressive, animated, and most importantly, consistent bowler.

    And boy did we need it. Post Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, life was hard for an Australian fan.

    Not properly hard. Not struggling week in, week out hard. It was hard like the disinherited son of a millionaire who has to get a real job, hard. We were spoilt, life used to be easy, but now we were grafting away with everyone else.

    Lee was on the decline, soon to retire, Clark was injured and eventually omitted, and Mitchell Johnson was only establishing himself.

    Stability was hard to come by, and that was something we direly needed.

    In walks the big Victorian.

    Though at times hampered by injuries, Siddle played consistently through a very dark time in Australian cricket. The years 2009-2013 saw us lose three Ashes series, lose two home series to South Africa, fail to beat New Zealand at home for the first time in 26 years, and be subjected to a humiliating whitewash in India.

    Siddle played alongside some solid but unspectacular bowlers such as Doug (the rug) Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhouse; some young, but at that time essentially fragile or erratic colts such as James Pattinson and Mitch Starc; as well as some less-recognisable names like Peter George and Trent Copeland.

    Later on, with the rebirth of Mitchell Johnson and science finally developing a substance to (temporarily) hold together Ryan Harris, Siddle had better company.

    However, of the crop of bowlers through these years, it was only Johnson and Harris who consistently out-bowled Siddle. As we all know, these three will go down in history for their performance in the 2013-14 Ashes, with Siddle playing a supporting role.

    As it stands from 62 Test matches, Siddle has taken 211 wickets at 29.92. This is good, if not spectacular, but better is his economy rate of 2.92 runs per over, which is remarkably similar to cult hero Merv Hughes (212 at 28.38 with 2.93 economy), and all done in a time of bigger bats, shorter boundaries, and flatter pitches.

    However, more than his stats, or his importance for Australia at this time, I liked Siddle the character.

    Peter Siddle claims a hatrick in an Ashes Test at the Gabba.

    AP Photo/Tertius Pickard

    Friendly and personable off the field, Siddle became endearingly manic on the pitch, never shy of a shout or an explosive and elongated appeal. More than Michael Clarke’s honest but feeble sledging, and before Darren Lehmann’s win-at-all-costs approach, Siddle’s attitude became the epitome of Australia’s aggressive mindset.

    When it comes to his performances, two Tests are in need of mentioning.

    The first Test of the 2010-11 Ashes, in Brisbane, started on November 25, Siddle’s 26th birthday. It was a day that would see Siddle get his best ever returns, and enter a rare club.

    In the second session of the day, with England 4-197, Siddle had the established Alastair Cook reaching forward and across, nicking a sharp catch to Shane Watson at first slip. After a typically ‘Siddlean’ celebration, ‘English’ wicketkeeper Matt Prior came to the crease. Siddle’s next ball slammed into Prior’s back pad at 142 kph, deflected off, and smashed off stump.

    The celebration of Mark Taylor in the commentary box paled in comparison to Siddle’s animation on field.

    The next in, Stuart Broad, wasn’t ready, and came out late to the crease. After some calming words from his parter, Ian Bell, Broad went to guard. Siddle’s ball, at 143 kph, cannoned straight into Broad’s toe, trapping him LBW.

    Siddle’s celebration was something to behold, reaching up to the sky with both hands; elated doesn’t quite do it justice.

    In this remarkable day’s cricket, Siddle became the owner of the 38th Test hat-trick, the ninth by an Australian, and only the third by an Australian in the Ashes. Siddle ended the day with 6-54, his best innings ever in Test cricket.

    This feat, however amazing it was, was a pleasure to behold simply for Siddle’s reaction. Animated, aggressive and quintessentially Australian. Endearing until the end.

    The second Test worth mentioning was against South Africa, in Adelaide, in 2012.

    No article dedicated to Siddle would be complete without the adjective ‘lionhearted’, and this match demonstrated this quality in its essence.

    Simply put, it was not a bower’s game, with five centuries, including a 230* by Michael Clarke, and Faf du Plessis’ 110* from 376 balls on debut, ensuring South Africa held on for a draw.

    But what I remember from this match is Siddle’s bowling on the last day.

    Early in the first innings, a young James Pattinson retired injured after only 9.1 overs, leaving the bulk of the bowling to Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Nathan Lyon. Siddle bowled 63.5 overs for the match: 386 balls.

    He took four wickets in the attempt for a win, the only one who really stood up that day, though Lyon may have been remembered more if Mathew Wade had a better game with the gloves.

    The above clip does not show the image I remember most: Siddle bending down before each ball in the last overs, in a vain attempt to gather what scant energy he had left.

    It is an image that should be seared in Australian Test memory: in an ultimately futile effort, Siddle expended himself to the point of collapse nonetheless.

    A testament to our team.

    Peter Siddle may be remembered by some as a plodder, someone who rode along in a team packed with superior talents. But this does no justice to the big man, someone who gave his all every match; who, at one time, gave a solid look to a frankly fragile Australian team.

    He is the most earnest bowler I have ever seen. Take a bow, Peter Siddle, you did your country proud.

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