Last October, Peter Siddle played his first Test in two years. But that’s nothing. The same month he was added to Australia’s T20I squad, a format he has played just twice for his country, and now he will play his first ODI in eight years. He has a chance at being part of a World Cup and Ashes double tour to England.
What if someone had told him that 12 months ago? “I would have laughed at them,” he said.
There has been a lot of recrimination around the Australia men’s teams this season amid continued upheaval, and Siddle’s story feels like an uplifting tale.
The Test return is the least surprising development. Siddle has remained a very consistent red-ball bowler, having overcome a back injury he suffered in 2016. However, his rise to prominence in the limited-overs game is the result of a cricketer reinventing himself towards the latter part of his career.
“I’m getting on in my years so haven’t got a hell of a lot of cricket left, especially at the international stage, so just knew I had to get fit and see how things went,” he said. “It hadn’t even crossed my mind playing white-ball cricket for Australia again. In the UAE, I stayed as back-up after [Mitchell] Starc got rested for the T20Is, but didn’t think much of it. I feel like a young kid getting his first opportunity.”
By playing at the SCG on Saturday he will comfortably set a new record for the longest gap between appearances for an Australia player, beating the six years and 282 days of Tim Zoehrer between 1986 and 1994. It is also at the ground of his last appearance in limited-overs international cricket: from that match against Sri Lanka, he is one of just four of the Australians still playing, along with Shane Watson, Cameron White and Steven Smith.
His return to Australia’s coloured clothes is down mostly to his outstanding BBL campaign in 2017-18 – form he has carried into this year’s tournament. Last season, he was a key part of Adelaide Strikers’ tournament-winning run, conceding just 5.94 runs per over across 11 matches, which was easily the best for any quick who played more than a single match. It was also the best economy in Big Bash history for a pace bowler playing at least 10 matches a season.
Having found life tougher in the T20 Blast where he played for Essex, taking three wickets at an economy of 9.50 from five innings, this season he currently has a BBL economy of 4.88 across his three matches which have brought four wickets. Against Sydney Thunder, on New Year’s Eve, he claimed 3 for 20, but having started to hear a few suggestions an ODI call-up might come, he admitted feeling the nerves that night.
“I went away before the selection meeting and played the New Year’s game. I was a bit more nervous than I was previously because I knew if I put in a good performance, it could mean a lot.”
It was being away from the international scene that gave him time to work a new – or updated – set of skills which have now caught the eye of the selectors. Having played just seven BBL matches for Melbourne Renegades in 2014 and 2015 before being sidelined by the back injury in 2016, he found a new home with the Strikers.
“Getting the chance to play a full season of the Big Bash, if there’s ever a good way to learn fast, how to develop skills in white-ball cricket, it’s definitely the T20 format. You have to learn quickly, learn on your feet and if you don’t execute the deliveries, you obviously cop it a lot in the shortest format. That’s definitely helped my 50-over form.”
“For him to go away and work on the skills that he’s brought to the table over the last couple of years in Big Bash cricket is outstanding,” Australia’s one-day captain, Aaron Finch, said after confirming him in the XI. “He probably went with a real red-ball focus for a long time there and probably neglected the one-day skills and then to come back and have an eight-week period last year where he just focused on skills for the white ball, how quickly he learnt, how quickly he improved was unbelievable and he’s kept doing that.”
Siddle is still waiting to see what role he is given in the ODI side – and T20 form does not guarantee success over the longer duration – but given his role in the BBL, it would not be a surprise to see him have the responsibility of the closing overs. “Obviously the death bowling, yorkers and change-ups, I think my skills I’ve been able to execute pretty consistently. That will play a big role in my set-up, but I’ll find out more in the next couple of days. The focus over the last couple of weeks has been on that death bowling and working on trying to perfect that.”
And if he is asked to bowl at the India batsmen when they are in full flight in the latter stages of an innings, he’ll be keeping it pretty simple.
“Sometimes people do get caught up a little bit in trying to have too many options, not just having the few good options they can fall back on and that they know they’ve perfected under pressure. So for me that’s what it has been. Getting everything perfected as best as I can, so when it comes to the heat of the battle that I can back up my skills.”
The only other global tournament Siddle has played was the 2009 Champions Trophy. He took 3 for 55 in the semi-final victory over England before nabbing 1 for 30 off his 10 in the final against New Zealand to help secure the title. Nine years on and Siddle could be a few good performances away from booking a World Cup trip.
Final chance for Malinga’s SL to break New-Zealand tour rut
Five matches, four losses, one draw thus far, and so we come to the final game of Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand. Can they finally get a win?
Not on their side, as usual, is form. Sri Lanka have lost four of their last five T20s – the most recent one quite badly, going down by 30 runs to England at home. What may give hope to the visitors though, is the fact that the opposition’s recent record is even worse. New Zealand have lost each of their last six T20s, and nine of their last 10 – the caveat being that five of those losses came against Pakistan, who are currently the top-ranked T20 team. The hosts also find their ranks depleted for this match, with Kane Williamson and Trent Boult being rested, while Sri Lanka’s tormentor from the ODIs – James Neesham – is out through injury as well.
As is often the case when cricket comes to Eden Park, the focus is on adapting to the ground’s odd dimensions. Featuring some of the shortest straight boundaries in the game, bowlers can sometimes find this a punishing venue, particularly when they overpitch. When Sri Lanka were last here for a T20, in 2016, for example, Colin Munro walloped seven sixes and a four in the space of 14 balls to bring up the second-fastest international half-century in the format. New Zealand’s bowlers have themselves been on the receiving end, most recently in February last year, when Australia chased down the mammoth target of 244 with seven balls and five wickets to spare.
New Zealand: LLLLL(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWLLL
In the spotlight
Generally one of the most reliable death bowlers around, Tim Southee‘s limited overs form has recently been on the wane. Although it is in ODIs that this slight decline has largely been observed, Southee’s T20 returns have not been stellar either, particularly at Eden Park, where he has returned economy rates of 10.5, 12 and 11.75, in his last three outings. He had taken only one wicket across those games. Sri Lanka may look at those returns and figure Southee is a bowler worth targeting and may be particularly tempted to unsettle him because in the absence of Williamson, it is Southee who will lead the New Zealand side.
As good as Thisara Perera‘s ODI batting has been over the past year, he has arguably been even better in T20s, where he averaged 40.42 with a strike rate of 178, in 2019. With him having hit perhaps the form of his life in the ODI series just past, Sri Lanka will want Thisara to face as many balls as possible in Auckland, so he can have time to settle at the crease before opening those powerful shoulders. Thisara usually bats at No. 6 or lower, but given his exploits in New Zealand, he may serve Sri Lanka better from higher up the order.
Allrounder Mitchell Santner is likely to play his first international since March last year, having now returned to competitive cricket following knee surgery. Apart from Southee, the remainder of the attack is difficult to predict, with Doug Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson, Seth Rance, and the uncapped Scott Kuggeleijn all vying for three spots.
New Zealand (possible): 1 Colin Munro, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Glenn Phillips, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Tim Seifert (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee (capt.), 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Lockie Ferguson
Danushka Gunathilaka is unavailable for Sri Lanka after he sustained a back injury in the final ODI. Kusal Perera may open the innings in his stead.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Kusal Perera (wk), 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Thisara Perera, 5 Dasun Shanaka, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Asela Gunaratne, 8 Seekkuge Prasanna, 9 Lasith Malinga (capt), 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Kasun Rajitha
Pitch and conditions
Flat surfaces are generally the norm at Eden Park, which means another run-fest could be on the cards. The weather is expected to be good for the duration of the match, with temperatures in the low 20 degrees range.
Stats and trivia
Last year Eden Park hosted the T20 international with the second highest run aggregate, with New Zealand and Australia scoring 488 runs between them, for the loss of only 11 wickets.
Thisara Perera has hit three fifties in his last four T20 innings, all of them batting from No. 6 or 7.
New Zealand have won both T20s they have played against Sri Lanka in Auckland, winning comfortably in 2006 and 2016.
“Playing here is a true test for bowlers. You’re faced with a pretty good surface most of the time an small boundaries. There’s not too many margins for error.”
New Zealand captain Tim Southee
“Yes, the boundaries are very small here, but I still think bowlers can still change the game. I have that experience. You have to execute your skills 90% perfectly at least. A yorker is still a yorker.”
Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga
Langer to Renshaw: Think about now, don’t worry about selection
Australia head coach Justin Langer has urged Matt Renshaw to maintain his focus ahead of the first Test against Sri Lanka with a belief that the opening batsman has previously become sidetracked by thoughts of a berth in the team before it had come to fruition.
Renshaw, the Queensland left-hander, was one of three batsmen brought into the squad for the Brisbane and Canberra matches as the selectors made sweeping changes following the series loss against India. It appears he is in a battle with Queensland team-mate Joe Burns and the uncapped Will Pucovski to take two batting slots for the day-night Test at the Gabba.
All three have been named in the Cricket Australia XI to face the Sri Lankans in the pink-ball tour match in Hobart next week with that three-day fixture shaping as a play-off for who slots into the reshaped Test line-up.
Renshaw’s Sheffield Shield numbers for the season are poor – 199 runs at 19.90 – which was the reason he was overlooked in favour of Marcus Harris to face India. Langer suggested Renshaw, who was set to play against Pakistan in the UAE before suffering concussion, had got too far ahead of himself before the India series and the 2017-18 Ashes when Cameron Bancroft was selected ahead of him.
“Hopefully this last little bit for him is a brilliant lesson for a young player, who we know is very good,” Langer said. “In the lead-up to the Ashes he probably got a bit sidetracked about getting selected for the Ashes, in the lead-up to this India tour he probably got a bit sidetracked by getting selected and what happens. When you get sidetracked by the future or selection you forget to keep your eyes on the ball and be good at what you are which is a batsman.
“We know Matt is a good player and a great lesson should be learned for young batsman, think about now and the future will look after itself. No different to that CA XI, it’s a great opportunity for guys to think about that game and selection will look after itself. If they are sidetracked by getting selected in the Test team then the chances of them performing are lessened. That’s mental toughness, the sort of thing we like to see – that the guys are learning lessons and performing when all different pressures come on.”
Langer was happy for the pressure around the Cricket Australia XI match to be ramped up to see how the players coped with the added scrutiny. On Wednesday, national selector Trevor Hohns lamented the lack of red-ball cricket this time of the year on which to judge form and a decision has been made to elevate the CA XI match to something more akin to a Test trial.
“The more prestige we can put into that CA XI, you can see it’s more like a 2nd XI, it gives guys opportunities. It’s against Sri Lanka and under lights, you could say it’s a bat-off and that’s great,” Langer said. “If people think there’s pressure in that that’s great because when you get to Test cricket there’s a lot more pressure than batting for a spot in the team.”
The place for 20-year-old Pucovski was the most eye-catching call in the Test squad. He has played just eight first-class matches but scored a double-century earlier this season before taking a break due to mental health issues. Langer said his name had been talked about for some time and it was his ability to bat time that stood out
“A couple of years ago he played in an Under-19s tournament and he scored three or four hundreds on the trot and I kept hearing his name come up,” Langer said. “He’s got a very simple technique, from my understanding he’s got a great vision of what he wants to achieve in red-ball cricket which tells me he’s got some hunger. He’s got some ability and he’s got some performances on the board. We’re not bringing him in because he’s just a good young player, [he’s] a talented player who’s shown the ability to score hundreds at all different levels.”
New Zealand women recall Katie Perkins for India series
Batsman Katie Perkins has been named in the New Zealand women’s squad for the three-match ODI series against India. Perkins last played an ODI against Pakistan in Sharjah more than 14 months ago, and did not feature in New Zealand’s World T20 campaign in the West Indies. However, she has shown good form for Auckland in the ongoing domestic Women’s One Day Competition, aggregating 176 runs in her last six matches at an average of 88. New Zealand coach Haidee Tiffen reckoned Perkins’ experience and “outstanding” fielding skills would hold the team in good stead.
“Katie brings with her a lot of experience. She is an outstanding fielder and will be a valuable asset to our middle-order batting,” Haidee said.
The other notable inclusion was wicket-keeper Bernadine Bezuidenhout. She replaced Katey Martin, who opted out due to work commitments. While both of them were regularly part of the XIs fielded by New Zealand in the World T20, it was Martin who took up wicket-keeping duties then. Tiffen saw the change for the series against India as an opportunity to build bench strength behind the stumps.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Bernie to showcase her skills with the gloves,” she said. “While we will miss the experience of Katey, this is a good chance to build some depth behind the stumps.”
The series starts in Napier on January 24, and will run parallel to the men’s series between the two teams, which commences on January 23 at the same venue.
“The chance to play double-headers alongside the BLACKCAPS is massive for us. The team are buzzing for it and want to put their best foot forward and play a brand of cricket all New Zealand can be proud of,” Tiffen said.
Squad: Amy Satterthwaite (c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout (wk), Sophie Devine, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu
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