Tuesday 24 November 2009

2009/2010 Summer of Cricket: The Great Peter Siddle Myth...

The Great Peter Siddle Myth...
(as of November 2009)

In typical cricket karma style... a year to almost the day since this article was penned - Peter Siddle took 6/54 including a Hat-Trick to skittle England on Day One of the 1st Ashes Test of 2010/2011 at the Gabba.
Siddle is given his due credit in this article on the Winners & Losers of Day One... but what was written below was pretty much spot on until today... unless of course Australia don't win the Test Match after Siddle's greatest contribution to Australia so far.
Get more on the current Ashes Series here.

Back to the Original November 2009 Article...

You've heard the scouting report. Hits the pitch hard, tough, aggressive and relentless.

Even Cricinfo gets in on the love fest: With a charging run-up, powerful delivery, worrying bounce and elongated appeal, Peter Siddle made a lasting mark in 2008-09 as he stepped up from promising domestic bowler to a speedster who could be part of Australia's attack for years.

Now for the reality.

Peter Siddle is the most over-rated Australian bowler since the days of Brendon Julian*.

You can't include the likes of Scott 'Can't bowl, can't throw' Muller, Paul 'Blocker' Wilson, Shaun 'A Test is how many days in a row?' Tait and Simon 'Do you even remember me I played two Tests' Cook because they never received the same kind of deliriously delusional hype that Siddle has had in the past year. They may have been members of the Australian team at one point but they were warming the chairs of established players and none of them were given the 'You've arrived' acceptance that Siddle has in 2009.

This reputation he has built as the 'strong man' of Australian cricket bemuses me.
In the three Test Match Series Australia have contested with Siddle as a permanent fixture in the side, we have lost a home series to South Africa, won a series in South Africa and lost the Ashes in England.

Hardly a sign he's been a revelation in the Australian team.

Peter Siddle's statistics from 12 Test Matches (2008-2009):

12 Tests
49 Wickets @ 28.93
2.99 Economy Rate
57.8 Strike Rate
4 Wickets in an Innings: 2
5 Wickets in an Innings: 2

Stuart Clark, the bowler Siddle has been holding out of the Test Team for most of 2009, has these statistics in Test Cricket (2006-2009):

24 Tests
94 Wickets @ 23.86
2.61 Economy Rate
54.7 Strike Rate
4 Wickets in an Innings: 6
5 Wickets in an Innings: 2

Now statistically you might think - not a great deal of difference. Clark is obviously a tighter bowler but as for wickets and strike rate - fairly even.

But when you look at each bowler's impact on the first three series they have played in - there's little doubt which bowler looks the goods.

And no it isn't the guy with the Southern Cross tatt...

Peter Siddle has played in three full series (3 Test Series or more) - Series A: South Africa in Australia, Series B: Australia in South Africa and Series C: Australian in England.

Series A: 3 Test Matches v South Africa. South African won 2-0. Siddle took 13 wickets but 8 of them came in the dead rubber at Sydney and included just 2 top order (1-6) wickets. For all his pace and bounce he produced just 1/128 at the WACA when Australia could not defend 414 and despite taking 4/81 in the South African's first innings in the 2nd Test at the MCG - South Africa's 459 set up the game for their Series clinching win.
13 Wickets @ 27.38 including 1 Test Win, 2 Losses and 4 Top Order Wickets (1-6).

Series B: 3 Test Matches v South Africa. Australia won 2-1. Siddle made his best contribution to a victory in Test cricket to date in the opening Test, taking 6 wickets (4 of which were top order wickets) in Australia's 162 run win. In the 2nd Test, despite barely featuring in the first innings he took 3 top order wickets in the second dig to help Australia to a series winning lead. But in the 3rd Test he failed to make any inroads with just one early wicket in a South African total of 651 - an Australian loss.
12 wickets @ 22.50 including 2 Test Wins, 1 Loss and 8 Top Order Wickets (1-6).

Series C: 5 Test Matches v England. England won 2-1. Siddle's contributions in England were few and far between. The standout moment of the series for Siddle wasn't his lower order demolition of England at Leeds but his inability to get Graeme Swann out after peppering him with bouncers during the final day of the 1st Test. If Siddle gets Swann out there the English resistance would have faltered, instead Swann went on to 31 and bat for over an hour which was critical in the context of the match. Siddle may have returned 20 wickets in the series but he was largely all huff and puff rather than results and Australia's lone victory in the series is evidence of that fact. If Siddle carries his weight in that series (Mitchell Johnson was just as poor) like Ben Hilfenhaus did - Australia win the 2009 Ashes.
Perhaps the most significant stat was that England passed 300 six times in ten innings (including 400 twice) with Siddle 'leading' the attack.
20 wickets @ 30.80 including 1 Test Win, 2 Losses and 11 Top Order Wickets (1-6).

Conversely, here are Stuart Clark's first three full series (3 Test Series or more) - Series A: Australia in South Africa 2006, Series B: England in Australia 2006/07 and Series C: India in Australia 2007/08.

Series A: 3 Test Matches v South Africa. Australia won 3-0. Stormed onto the international Test scene with a Player of the Series award and 9 wickets in his first test. You can argue having Brett Lee and Shane Warne alongside him was a giant boost but still 14 top order wickets out of 20 is a superb stat considering the talent he was bowling with.

20 wickets @ 15.85 including 3 Test Wins and 14 Top Order Wickets (1-6).

Series B: 5 Test Matches v England.
Australia won 5-0. Australia's clean sweep of the 2006/2007 Ashes Series was the swansong of Langer, McGrath and Warne but it was Stuart Clark's series. He took more wickets than Warne, McGrath and Lee as the Australians sent the English packing in a dominant summer. Clark's 17 top order wickets and the fact England only scored above 300 three times in ten innings is a glowing endorsement of his impact on the series.
26 wickets @ 17.03 including 5 Test Wins and 17 Top Order Wickets (1-6).

Series C: 4 Test Matches v India. Australia won 2-1. Significantly Clark's first long series without Warne or McGrath in the lineup (Australia had swept a 2 Test Series with Sri Lanka earlier in the 2007/08 Summer) but the first with Mitchell Johnson as a fixture in the team. Clark wasn't dominant against India but with the series won 2-1 in a tight affair - he was Australia's best bowler (despite Lee taking more wickets). Australia romped home in the 1st Test by 337 runs with Clark the destroyer in the Indian first innings with 4/28 dismissing Dravid, Tendulkar, Singh and Dhoni. Australia won the 2nd Test, lost the 3rd and drew the 4th to win the series and although Clark was ineffective wickets wise in the last match - Australia still won the series.
14 wickets @ 28.21 including 2 Test Wins, 1 loss, 1 draw and 9 Top Order Wickets (1-6).

Now you can argue that Clark's last couple of years in Test cricket have been poor, but remember an elbow injury plagued this period and the selectors seemed to ignore his past record when finally fit - instead sticking with Siddle.

One only has to look at Clark's performance in the first innings of the 4th Ashes Test in 2009 to see what he has to offer.

Perhaps the most significant statistic that seems to escape consideration at the Australian selection table is the Australian Team Record when Stuart Clark plays a full Test Match Series.

Australia have won ALL SIX Test Series that Stuart Clark has played a full part in.

Yet we keep picking Peter Siddle ahead of him.

The most ironic part of the Siddle love comes with the desire of the Australian selectors to find a replacement for the leadership of the attack that Glenn McGrath took into retirement with him. They'll ignore some mediocre performances from the Victorian in the hope he'll eventually step up. But those same selectors failed to back the genuine wicket taking ability of Jason Krejza as they searched for a replacement for Shane Warne.

That's not to say Nathan Hauritz won't do a good job this summer but if Krejza was given the same treatment that Siddle has received - Australia might have the kind of wicket taking weapon an attack featuring the likes of Johnson and Siddle need to get better.

But they cast Krejza off after apparently he alone was the reason South Africa chased over 400 to win a Test Match... at the WACA.

As an Australian, I hope Siddle is going to have a big summer in 2009/2010 - beginning with the 3 Test Match Series with the West Indies at the Gabba on Thursday. However I am still yet to see what all the fuss surrounding Peter Siddle is about when there is a guy like Stuart Clark being wasted at Sheffield Shield level - despite the fact he has at least a couple of quality summers of cricket left in him.
*As for Brendon Julian, the next great left arm bowling hope for Australia entering the 1993 Ashes... 7 Test Matches, 15 wickets @ 39.93, 3.27 economy rate, 73.2 strike rate, one 4 wicket haul in innings and his Test career was over by 1995.

But Julian was part of the 1995 Frank Worrell Trophy win in the West Indies and at the end of the day winning is all that matters... although evidently not for selectors when it comes to picking between Peter Siddle and Stuart Clark.