A decade on from his first Ashes series in England, Peter Siddle is hoping wickets for Essex over the coming weeks can propel him into Australia’s squad for another this summer.
Now 34, Siddle is enjoying life in Chelmsford so much that he has committed to the club for two more years following a fine debut summer when he picked up 37 County Championship wickets at 16.40.
After starting his season with a six-wicket haul against champions Surrey at The Oval earlier this month, the chances of him playing in a fourth away Ashes series are good.
Siddle, recalled by Australia last October for their Test series against Pakistan in the UAE, said: “Playing in the Ashes is the aim. But at the moment it’s just about performing in the games that I get an opportunity to play in and whatever happens happens.
“Selection is always out of your control so all I can control is my performances. If can just keep putting the credits on the board for Essex hopefully that’s enough for me to get that opportunity.”
It is now 18 years since the Australians last won an Ashes series in England and Siddle, who was part of defeated touring sides in 2009, 2013 and 2015, is hoping it’s fourth time lucky this year.
Memories of Siddle’s first Ashes Test 10 years ago came flooding back last week when Essex travelled to Cardiff to take on Glamorgan in the One-Day Cup. Alastair Cook was the first to remind his team-mate of the famous draw England secured thanks to a memorable last-wicket stand between Monty Panesar and James Anderson.
“Cooky and I were just joking about that the other day – playing against each other there in ’09 and how we couldn’t get Jimmy and Monty out at the end to win that match,” he said. “It doesn’t feel that long ago and I’d love to play a part in this one.
“I’m probably not going to get an opportunity after this year to play in another Ashes series so there’s a lot riding on hopefully getting a chance. It has been a long run since we’ve had success over here so we definitely want to turn that around and hopefully 2019 is the year.”
One thing that will make Australia’s task easier this summer will be the absence of Cook from England’s top order following the opener’s international retirement last September.
“Definitely,” said Siddle. “The battles we’ve had against each other out in the middle over the years have been tough and have gone either way at different times. He’s one of the best batsmen I’ve bowled against in my career – just his patience and the way he goes about it.
“I’ve always admired the way he batted and held the team together and I’m loving the opportunity now to be his team-mate because we did play against each other a lot so it’s nice now to be able to be team-mates, spend some time together and just enjoy our cricket.”
The Australian, who won the Sheffield Shield with Victoria last month, is loving life back at Essex. “It’s been great,” he said. “For the last few months of the season at home, even though it was exciting back there, I was looking forward to getting back here and meeting up with the boys.
“They’re a great bunch of lads, I really enjoyed my time with them last year, hence the reason I signed for the next couple of years. It’s great to be back.”
There are also two players he shares a dressing-room with at Chelmsford in fellow seam bowler Jamie Porter and opener Nick Browne who Siddle feels have what it takes to play for England sooner rather than later.
“I think the potential is there,” he said. “Over the last couple of years we’ve seen when they’re at their best they’re up there with some of the best cricketers in England. It shows with the numbers they’ve put forward.
“Browney’s conversion rate in turning fifties into hundreds is quite impressive and Ports – you can’t just go out and get that many wickets without having a lot of skill. There are other players as well like Tom Westley and Dan Lawrence when at their best they’re up there with some of the best cricketers just outside the England squad. We’re pretty blessed with a very strong group with a good core of young guys who are wrapped around the experienced guys which makes for a great squad.”
For the next few weeks, Essex, like every other county, will focus on the One-Day Cup and Siddle is confident they can challenge for a place in next month’s final at Lord’s. “There’s still plenty of more games to go obviously but hopefully we can be up there and fighting for that title,” he said.
CHRIS STOCKS / Photo: Getty Images