Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Ryan Sidebottom and 'Horses for Courses'

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.

9 comments:

The Atheist said...

Well, I think Sidebottom's actual inclusion into the team will depend on whether they play Flintoff as a bowler.

If they drop bell for Freddie, then there's certainly room in the bowlers to play Sidebottom. However, if, as everyone suspects, they play six specialist batsman + Flintoff, then there simply isn't enough slot to field Sidebottom as well.

It seems as though he's just injury cover.

Richard Lake said...

I think Ryan's better than a "Horses for Courses" selection. He's been unlucky that he has got injured at the wrong time a couple of times. Also his best year for some time came as he bowled Notts to the title - which was ignored by everyone as England won the Ashes.

I also hope that the selectors know better about Headingly. It's not the ground that it used to be when bowlers like Derek Pringle used to do so well there. It's no coincidence that Yorkshire's best two young bowlers are leggies.


One of a long conveyor belt of Yorkshire seamers who then fell out with the club (Silverwood, Gough, Kirby, Hutchison to name but four). If he does play, he'll overtake his Dad's number of test caps. He also gives a real alternative to Plunkett or Harmison.

Tim said...

I'm not saying he's a bad bowled, and perhaps should have had more recongnition, but my point was I doubt he would have been picked anywhere else but Headingly.

Chrispy said...

Richard makes an interesting point. It could have been interesting to see young Adil in the squad to replace Flintoff as a spinning allrounder! However, it is no doubt a wee bit early, but not by much and the Windies do not play spin that well! Better to start against the Windies than India, or Sri Lanka away. No way will Fred play as part of a four man attack with his fitness worries!

Nick Gammons said...

It would be a travesty to drop Bell, so I hope England play four bowlers and Collingwood as back-up. If they do then Flintoff should only play if he can take his full load of bowling.

Sidebottom is a good option, but it would be tough on Plunkett if he is dropped after just one chance. Harmison is under pressure, but England must be sure he is finished at this level before they drop him. To my mind he is still a class bowler, but his inconsistency has to go.

Chrispy said...

The problem with Harmi is that he is consistant. Jonathan Agnew wrote a good piece where Harmi's figures were broken down in to ten test blocks. Apart from during his second ten tests, (his golden spell against the windies where he averaged 19 over ten games with 59 wickets) he averages mid to high thirties for every other ten match block, that's over 40 test matches where he isaveraging 35+. He has a lot to prove and the question we now have to ask is how often is Harmi a match winner? and when was the last time he was?

Tim said...

As most people expected, Flintoff's out injured. So it comes down to Sidebottom or Andrson - given the chronic inconsistency of England's seam attack, I can't think of a valid reason for not selecting Sidebottom. Left-arm, consistent and, according to some, can swing the ball both ways. He could be just what England need.

Matt Thornton (Six and Out) said...

Does his 8 wickets vindicate his selection... or prove that he is only a Headingley Horses for Courses bowler? Guess we'll find out at Old Trafford...

Tim said...

Well he couldn't have done any more - and bowled with tremendous accuracy and variety.

But, if he is a 'horses for courses' bowler, I suspect it will only become apparent agianst India, as the last two Tests are also played at northern grounds - and, of course, this is a very poor West Indian side.