Ryan Sidebottom, to the surprise of many, has been selected for the second Test and keeps alive one of the great traditions of the English summer: the ‘horses for courses’ selection for the Headingly Test. It is based on the simple notion that a fine, experienced county seamer is of more worth at Headingly than a bowler who, elsewhere, would be considered more threatening.
‘Horses for courses’ instantly evokes memories of Neil Mallender, who took 8-122 in the match against Pakistan in 1992, and Steve Watkin, who took 5-91 in the game against West Indies a year previously. Many quaint cricketing traditions have rather vanished in the modern era of uber-professionalism and central contracts, but not this. In 2003 James Kirtley won England a Test against South Africa in quintessentially English conditions (albeit at Trent Bridge), while Martin Bicknell’s recall came in that same summer. Initially picked for Headingly, he was given the last Test at his home ground too, where he helped bowl England to victory.
So, despite the odd Martin Saggers (who played unsuccessfully in 2004 against New Zealand), the ‘horses for courses’ selection has certainly served England well in the past. Sidebottom is an accurate left-armer who averages 25 in his first-class career and played one prior Test, in 2001, where he failed to take a wicket.
Sidebottom probably does not possess the necessary gifts for a long-term international career but, at Headingly, would certainly be a better bet than James Anderson, who, like so many young English bowlers, simply cannot be relied upon to bowl the ball on a length just outside off-stump. At Headingly, as Sidebottom, a former Yorkshire player, will testify, it is impossible to go wrong with that simple formula.