I’ve led Essex to the top – now I can reap the Ashes reward, says Peter Siddle

Peter Siddle admits he would have been desperately disappointed to have been overlooked for a place in Australia’s Ashes squad this summer.

The fast bowler has taken 214 Test wickets in his 64
appearances for his country and has been given one more chance to wear the
baggy green cap having helped guide Essex to the top of the County Championship
with his performances this summer.

“When you look back, they picked me for the Australian side in the UAE at the end of last year in conditions that are totally different from England but they selected me on my English performances,” Siddle stated.

“So it would have been really disappointing if an English Ashes
Series squad is chosen without me being included, particularly after how well
I’ve done in the past two seasons over here.”

The 34-year-old from Traralgon represented his country from
2008-2016 before winning a recall for the series with Pakistan in 2018, exactly
ten years to the day from his Test debut.

But talks with the selectors indicate that Siddle’s name is high on their list of considerations. “The chats I’ve had with JL (Justin Langer) and the selectors are still positive and that’s all you can worry about,” added Siddle.

“At the end of the day, I’m pretty relaxed and all I can do
is to go out on the park and perform and take wickets. I think that as I’ve
shown this season, I have been doing that and building pressure on batsmen and
that’s all I can do. I’ve been able to contribute with the bat as well and that
always plays a big part in any form of cricket these days.

“So, my all-round performances are desirable, and I feel
that I’m in a good place with that.”

Confirmation of Siddle’s call came after he took 4-31 for a Brad Haddin XII in a five-wicket defeat by a Graeme Hick XII at Southampton this week – a match which featured a 24-man inter-squad split of Ashes Test hopefuls.

“I do believe that I’m in a good place and hopefully, I can play a key part throughout the Ashes series,” he said.

“I’m fully acclimatised and used to conditions over here and I feel I’m playing some of the best cricket of my career. The performances I’ve had last year and again this summer plus the number of wickets have been outstanding.”

Now selected, England batsmen must beware the 6’2” paceman
as he has often proved a thorn in their side in the past.

Siddle took a hat-trick (dismissing Alastair Cook, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad) at Brisbane in the first Test of the 2010-11 Ashes series and made a key contribution when the Aussies inflicted a 5-0 whitewash in 2013-14.

Peter Siddle - Ashes cricket
Shush: Peter Siddle, Michael Clarke and David Warner gesture towards the Barmy Army after Jonny Bairstow is dismissed in the 2013-14 series. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

“I’ve got good memories of those matches,” he went on. “And
with the performances I’ve been putting in for Essex over the past couple of
years, I reckon it would have been hard for the selectors not to pick me,
irrespective of the talented bowlers we have in our armoury.

“Certainly, I feel at this stage, I’m in a good position,
I’m feeling good and the body is good.”

The right-arm quick, who can bowl lengthy spells whilst maintaining a high level of consistency and often hostility, took 37 wickets for Essex in seven championship matches last year.

He has maintained his incisive input with another 34 victims
in eight matches of this campaign helping to take his adopted county to the top
of Division and on course to regain the title they won two years ago.

“Sure, there’s a few games to go and it looks like it’s
going to be an exciting finish but there’s no reason why we can’t go on from
here and win it.

Essex currently lie four points clear of Somerset at the top
of division one, thanks largely to a run of six successive home victories.

“I love it at Chelmsford, I love the boys and it’s a nice
place to play cricket as well,” he purred.

“The fans are brilliant; they are so supportive, and we get
good support in all forms of cricket which is great. I love hearing that buzz
from the stands when I come onto bowl or take a wicket. I think every bowler
would relish that, whether it’s me, the 34 year-old or ‘Beardy’ (Aaron Beard)
and Cooky (Sam Cook) at their young age.

“It’s an exciting place to play cricket and I’m thoroughly
enjoying it.”

It was 11 years ago when Siddle took four wickets – all notable scalps – on his Test debut. Sachin Tendulkar as his maiden international wicket before following up with MS Dhoni, Virendar Sehwag and Ishant Sharma. Not a bad way to announce your arrival on the international scene!

Peter Siddle - Essex cricket
Eagles in flight: Essex have replaced Somerset at the top of the County Championship. Alex Davidson/Getty Images

But thoughts of retirement are still on the backburner. “The success I’ve had over my career puts me in good stead to judge how much cricket I play and how much longer I can continue but to me, age is just a number,” he explained. “If I’m still fit enough, if I’m still performing and taking wickets and contributing to the team, there’s no reason why I can’t keep playing for a few more years whether it’s at international level or just domestically.

“I want to keep playing until I feel that I’m done.in
cricket. When I stop performing at the level I know I can, then that will be
the time to call a halt and my decision will be to call it a day.

“Whenever that is, be it in a year’s time or five years’
time depends on the contributions I’m making.

“But now, I’m loving the cricket as much as I did when I was
18 or 19 years old.

“Presently, I feel I’ve got plenty still to give. I’m in a
good place, the body is good, Essex are winning games and I’m performing and
helping the team to get results.

“All in all, we are on our way to a lovely summer but give me an Ashes call-up and then I’d be really content.”

PAUL HISCOCK / Getty Images

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