Siddle hoping impressive performances with Essex leads to Ashes selection
PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 May 2019
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The fast bowler is aiming to be involved in a sixth Ashes series with Australia coming to England later this summer
Peter Siddle knows that a strong two-month blast with the red-ball for Essex should cement his place in the Australian party for his sixth and probably last Ashes series.
The fast bowler has eight Specsavers County Championship matches over the next nine weeks - beginning today against Nottinghamshire at Chelmsford (11am start) - to polish the skills that have brought 97 first-class scalps (44 for Essex), plus 43 in assorted white-ball outings, in the 18 months since he returned from a year-long hiatus caused by a stress fracture in the back.
Siddle's 37 Championship wickets at a cost of just 16.40 each in his first season for Essex led to a recall to the Australian team for two Tests against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October, where he increased his career tally to 214 in 64 Tests.
By-the-by, he also made three white-ball appearances against India in January after an eight-year absence from the one-day side, though it was not sufficient to seal a spot in the upcoming World Cup.
He is not bothered. This year is all about the Ashes. "It's about working hard," he says, "knowing at the back of my mind that I still want to play for Australia. This will probably be my last year to play in an Ashes series, so that is going to be the goal.
"I'm old enough now to know that all I've got to do is stay fit, stay on the park, and keep putting good performances on the board. That's all I can control.
"But, yeah, I'm confident [about Ashes selection]. Whether the selectors see it that way or not only time will tell! But my experience of the first-class game in England is probably more than the rest of the group put together. And that experience should mean I'm going to be a big candidate to be in that squad."
The 34-year-old has played 21 times against England, the first a decade ago, and taken 73 wickets in Ashes Tests. He is in form, too. He signed off from the Australian summer at the end of March with a five-wicket haul in Victoria's triumph in the Sheffield Shield final. And he was straight back in the groove in his first game of the season in England when he posted his best figures for Essex of six for 104 in the first innings of the draw against Surrey at The Oval.
"I love playing over here," he says. "l love the conditions and the environment; I love everything about it. It was a no-brainer when Essex offered me a two-year extension to my contract. Fingers crossed I'll keep playing over here for a whole lot longer. This is only the start."
It has been an inauspicious beginning to the 2019 domestic season for Essex with a damaging Championship defeat at Hampshire preceding the Surrey bounceback before a dismal Royal London Cup campaign, in which Siddle finished as top wicket-taker with a dozen from six appearances. "We just weren't able to nail it with either our batting or bowling," he says. "If you are a little bit off in both skills, and we were, it's hard to win matches. It cost us in some of those close games."
As for the Championship, Siddle reckons: "The first two games especially are going to be very important. We've got to make sure we hit the ground running and get good results to set up our season. We can't have a slow start like we did in the one-day comp and get left behind. If you do that in these first couple of games your season could be really under pressure."
In the first of those games, versus Notts, Siddle not only finds himself up against the county for whom he played in 2014, and but for injury in 2016 and 2017 as well, but also James Pattinson, with whom he shared the new-ball and 13 wickets for Victoria in the Shield final against New South Wales. They could yet be strike partners against England later this summer. "Jimmy Patto, my little buddy. That should be fun," he says.