There are some players that we love despite them being rubbish. In fact, there are loads of them, and we love them because they’re rubbish. We could write a whole series of articles on them, and in fact we have, in the form of our Unlikely Lads pieces. Of which this is one, even though we don’t particularly care for this player and even we wouldn’t describe him as rubbish. To be honest, it’s all a bit confusing, like episodes of Dr Who that travel back and forth in time, with paradoxes all over the place. Although in those cases, we usually forget all about the fact that we can’t actually understand what’s going on as soon as Jenna Coleman appears on screen.
Anyway, back on topic, there are also a load of players that we definitely don’t like, despite them being quite good. Without wanting to get back into a topic that we vowed never to speak of again, Kevin Pietersen was one of them. Sure, we enjoyed him scoring quite a lot of runs, as they generally proved quite helpful in terms of England winning games and all that, but that certainly didn’t mean we had to actually care for the doos making said runs. Our latest Unlikely Lad is another in this camp, a man who actually did pretty well, while still annoying the hell out of us.
The Ryan Sidebottom story could easily have ended in 2001, with a solitary wicketless Test against Pakistan at Lord’s. Had that been the case, this article would now be nothing more than a collection of gifs of Jenna Coleman, rather than a collection of gifs of Jenna Coleman wrapped up in a few sentences, a handful of which may even pertain to discussing things that actually happened to Ryan Sidebottom.
Instead Peter Moores happened and Sidebottom found himself recalled in 2007 to face the West Indies as part of an all-star bowling attack alongside Steve Harmison, Liam Plunkett and Monty Panesar. This was back when the West Indies weren’t that bad, although they did lose by an innings and 283 runs at Headingley, rather undermining our point. Anyway, Sidebottom helped himself to eight wickets in that Test, three more at Old Trafford and a five wicket haul in Durham as England romped away with the series. For the first time in a generation England actually seemed to have a decent left arm quick. And yes, we definitely haven’t forgotten about Alan Mullally when making that statement.
More wickets followed against India before a difficult tour of Sri Lanka, best remembered for Ravi Bopara’s Test debut and lots of rain, due it being monsoon season and all that. But it was on the following year’s tour of New Zealand that Sidebottom really came to the fore, pinball wizarding his way to 24 wickets in a three match series that we have fond memories of staying up all night watching. This was where the Moores effect really kicked in, as well as our obsession with drinking gin. Despite eventually winning the series, England were a real rabble; Tim Ambrose was behind the stumps, for a start, while both Harmison and Hoggard were dropped after the dreadful first Test, which England lost. Despite some pretty awful efforts with the bat, Sidebottom’s relentless wicket-taking dragged England over the line in the next two matches. Not that that was enough to elicit a smile from the man himself, who scowled, complained and generally looked miserable throughout, as if his best friend had just been arrested for using his credit card to access child pornography
The return series (which thanks to the oddities of the schedule started about a week after the first one finished) followed similar lines, Sidebottom taking another 17 wickets. By this stage he’d reached the heady heights of number five in the bowling rankings*, seemingly set to annoy us with his stupid face for years to come.
And yet, six Tests and nine wickets later his career was done. After the 51allout debacle (the Test match, not the website) and the North Sound sandpit debacle he lost his place to Harmison before suffering a number of injuries, reappearing only to replace Graham Onions for one Test in South Africa, a decision that made no sense whatsoever at the time and we’re still a bit angry about now.
Of course, there was also the small matter of being part of England’s World T20 winning side in 2010, something that we’re definitely not angry about. Sidebottom played all seven matches, took ten wickets and conceded barely 7.44 runs an over, keeping James Anderson out of the side. Again, not necessarily a popular decision, but you can’t argue with the results and we’re sure the England hierarchy had their reasons.
To conclude then, Ryan Sidebottom: really annoying but actually quite good and rather successful until he got injured. That didn’t mean we had to like him, but we can’t deny that there was something genuinely exciting about England having a genuinely decent left arm quick for the first time in a generation. In these exciting times for southpaws there’s suddenly the prospect of David Willey and/or Reece Topley possibly making the step up to Test cricket in the near future. The kids are alright, as some fella once sang.
*In a rare example of us actually doing some research, we checked this on the wonderfully archaic ICC Player Rankings website and they definitely say fifth, even if his Wikipedia page says sixth. We once quoted something straight from Wikipedia without checking it and ended up hiding in a bin while some hired goons turned the office over. We definitely won’t get fooled again.