Cricket: 'Sid Vicious' hat-trick sparks England anarchy
THE BRISBANE broadcasters based their gloomy predictions for low audience figures during the Ashes series on the fact that the Australian team had lost all their characters.
It was a very un-Australian show of pessimism and they need not have worried. In Peter Siddle they had their saviour right under their noses, and he delivered instant results for them with a hat-trick in the evening session of the first Test to blow away England.
Hat-tricks are rare beasts in Test matches and Siddle is only the 11th Australian to have taken one in 133 years and almost certainly the only to have done so on his 26th birthday. The last one in an Ashes series was performed by Darren Gough in 1998/99, while the last Australian to take one was Glenn McGrath, who achieved the feat 10 years ago against the West Indies.
Siddle's mother, Alison, was so glued to the television that she spent the whole day in her pyjamas yesterday, exactly the kind of behaviour that Channel 9's advertisers so desperately crave.
She was at home in Morwell, a coal-mining town in rural Victoria, where Siddle was unearthed as a bowler with potential by Cricket Australia's Diamonds of the Outback programme, a coaching initiative designed to solve fears that cricket was becoming a game for soft city types.
Siddle's country-boy image is far removed from the days of Brett Lee, Australia's last top-class fast bowler. He was the surfer dude from Sydney. Siddle is the woodchopper from a tiny town 200km east of Melbourne who took six for 54 to leave England all out on 260 after winning the toss.
Siddle gave up competing in woodchopping shows, where competitors stand on a block and swing an axe between their legs, because he was scared of lopping off a couple of toes and wrecking his bowling career.
It was a cautious move for a man known as 'Sid Vicious' and did not save him from other injuries. A complete reconstruction of his shoulder, a stress fracture to his foot and even a tooth abscess have caused him to take time out. His most recent absence, a 10-month lay-off with a stress fracture of the back, was the wake-up call players sometimes need in their mid-20s.
In order to recuperate, Siddle spent time training with Australian Rules football team Carlton and former Olympic champion cyclist Scott McGrory. He believes it was this exposure to different sporting cultures that brought about a lasting change.
"I was disappointed to get the injury last year but I realised there were a few things I had taken for granted," he said. "I knew for the rigours of Test cricket my body was just not in good shape and I had to work to get back in the side. Training with Carlton and seeing how professional they are made me realise I had to improve in that area."
Siddle began his Test career by hitting Gautam Gambhir, the Indian opener, on the head with his first ball and took 60 wickets in his first 17 Tests, leading him to be named the International Cricket Council Emerging Player of the Year in 2009.
Despite this record, his position in the team was in doubt until the eve of this match when it became clear he had nudged aside Doug Bollinger to play. It was a move popular with the punters, all the more so after he removed Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood in quick succession to leave England 125-4.
Earlier, captain Andrew Strauss was out for a duck with the third ball of the day before Shane Watson got one through the defences of Jonathan Trott.
Ian Bell and Alistair Cook had, however, calmed down the superb atmosphere at the Gabba with a partnership of 72 before Siddle removed Cook and Matt Prior in successive balls. The crowd then provided a roar that carried him to the crease to bowl his hat-trick delivery with Stuart Broad trapped lbw.
"On the hat-trick, I felt comfortable walking back to my mark," said Siddle. "The crowd got behind me and started roaring. It pumped me up and I just wanted to charge in, bowl fast and hit the top of off-stump. The execution wasn't quite there, but to hit him (Stuart Broad) on the full with a bit of shape was a dream ball and one I will remember for the rest of my life.
"To see the finger go up quickly was pleasing and the guys came charging in. I knew he was going to call for it (the umpire review), but when you hit someone on the full you are pretty confident most of the time it is in line. I thought I was safe and once they showed it was out on the screen it brought a big smile to my face."
Xavier Doherty then got in on the act by snaring top-scoring Ian Bell for 76 and James Anderson before Australia reached 25 without loss in reply.
"It is an amazing feeling and I guess it will sink in a bit more over the next few days," added Siddle. "My only other hat-trick was when I was 13, so this has been a long time in the making."
And so has Peter Siddle. Just tell his mother. Mrs Siddle burst into tears when he took the hat-trick. She knows how long and winding the road from Morwell's quiet streets to the Gabba and Ashes stardom has been. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Australia v England,
Live, Day 3, Sky Sports 1 , midnight