He did it again on Saturday. You probably didn’t even notice, and you’d be forgiven for it. It wasn’t flash. It was repetitive, it nagged, it probed and it badgered. And once again, it worked.
Peter Siddle has quietly accumulated 16 wickets this series at an average of 22.62 and an economy of 2.37, a more miserly rate than either of his more celebrated pace partners, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris.
With the whitewash approaching, so are the inevitable end-of-series report card pieces. England, who have played like schoolboys, have barely a man worthy of half marks. By comparison, it’ll be a roll of honour for the hosts. There will be the inevitable first class degrees for Johnson, the mature-student masters for Brad Haddin and the passes with flying colours for the ever-improving David Warner and Steve Smith.
Siddle is a partnership-breaker, a wicket-taker and general frustrater.
Siddle will probably be forgotten. Not that he’ll mind. He’s more than happy with running in uphill, into the wind, and with an old ball for good measure. On a day when Australia’s quicks shared nine wickets, he once again proved what a key member of the attack he is, as a partnership-breaker, a wicket-taker and general frustrater.
Like Johnson and Harris, Siddle picked up three wickets on Saturday at the SCG. He didn’t do it at a fearsome pace and he didn’t extract terrifying bounce. Siddle did it with consistency, with subtle swing and a relentless line.
Harris made the initial breakthrough, trapping Cook in front, but Siddle’s wickets were all key. Firstly, he invited a nibble from Bell, who’d stood shot-less throughout his 55-minute stay, and scoreless for 45 of them, and the last of England’s three once-mighty pillars was gone.
Then, after Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow had shared 49, the highest stand of another miserable English effort, he snared both in quick succession. The latter, who never settled, fell into a trap so telegraphed that Michael Clarke must have sniggered, a silly mid-on, for God’s sake, before Stokes was castled by one that nipped back beautifully. Like that, England’s brief dalliance with resistance was over and the whitewash once again appeared a formality.
And to think, this all on a day when Big Bash form, yes Big Bash form, had seen some (I’m talking to you, Fairfax Radio) question Siddle’s place in the side ahead of Australia’s mouth-watering trip to South Africa. Sure, with the returning James Pattinson and Jackson Bird bowling nicely in the game’s shortest form and Mitchell Starc back imminently, Australia have a fine stable of quick bowlers to take to the world’s number one cricketing nation, but drop Siddle? Give me strength.
This is a guy who has ghosted his way to 183 wickets in 51-and-a-half Tests. He’s a fine fielder and, although he hasn’t looked it this series, a doughty tail-ender. With the ball, he’s unaffected by unhelpful conditions or a different ball, as he showed in England this winter.
His fitness is staggering – in a series when searing heat has seen short spells become the order of the day – he’s regularly delivered six or eight at a time. It was one such spell that did for Stokes and Bairstow after lunch on Saturday. The figures in that stint? 2-14 from seven. Australia will need those spells in South Africa.
No one loves representing his country more and he’s looked the hungriest Australian all series. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that, alongside his skipper, he’s one of just two ever-presents during the three Ashes series defeats that preceded the whitewash that we’ll surely see in Sydney. His first 45 tests came in a time of famine for Australia. He deserves to indulge in the feast.
Australia has questions to ask about its team ahead of their big series next month, but leave Siddle alone. He is the glue that holds this attack together and those hard yards are worth their weight in gold.
Will Macpherson writes for Back Page Lead.