By Adam Collins
In Melbourne, perhaps more than in any other global city, coffee brings people together. So it was for Ryan Sidebottom when chatting to Ed Smith ahead of the first Test.
A connoisseur of espresso himself, naturally enough, England’s chief selector realised he was in the presence of a Melburnian at the Edgbaston nets and sourced a couple of café recommendations for Birmingham – where the fast bowler has been at home for Warwickshire over the last two seasons since moving from his native Australia.
During the warm-up days ahead of the Test, Sidebottom – the man who shares the name with the former England southpaw – bowled the house down at serious pace after he was invited to have a twist to help the home side’s preparation.
On match eve, he found Keaton Jennings’ edge then his off-stump in the space of four deliveries. He also sorted out Alastair Cook. Watching on as the 6’4” right-armer charged in were Smith and head coach Trevor Bayliss. While their focus was their batsmen at the business end, they surely had had their heads turned.
As The Cricket Paper explained when profiling the Victorian after his ten-wicket haul at Northants to begin the championship season, he is not eligible to play for England until 2024 when he will be 34 years old. That’s in keeping with the seven-year residency period the ECB mandated in 2012 to shifting allegiances from one full-member nation. However, with speculation that rule might be relaxed to accommodate Bajan Jofra Archer sooner rather than later, Sidebottom might have picked a good time to impress the top brass.
To recap, Sidebottom played one first-class game in the Sheffield Shield for his home state of Victoria in 2013 before a slew of injuries prevented him from adding to it. Following a productive season at club level, he decided to fulfil the dream of playing in England in Birmingham league cricket in 2017. Within weeks, he was drafted into the Bears’ second XI and shortly after, was debuting for the county at Lord’s, where he took six wickets.
Signed for two years at the start of the 2018 campaign, Sidebottom suffered a mid-season injury lay-off but was back at Lord’s last week, taking three first-innings wickets.
Across 11 games for the club he has 39 wickets at 21.4 apiece. If those rules do change at ECB towers, it might be Smith buying him a cup of coffee sooner rather than later.