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August 2009
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Peter Siddle: Headingley a must-win game for Australia

August 6th, 2009 by Peter Siddle in Australia, England, Test cricket, The Ashes

You may have read in the press that few of us went and watched Altrincham versus the Manchester United reserves on Tuesday night, which was good fun. I used to play as a kid and I’m a big Liverpool fan so it was great to watch. We even got out onto the pitch and took a few penalties. I’m more of an aggressive centre-half – I don’t have the silkiest of skills so I’m back there to boot the ball! It’s nice to have the distraction between back-to-back Tests, you go through a lot of mental strain during the matches and with such a short period off between Tests it’s important to get away from it all and cool your heels.

We get two days training in before the Test. The first one is the bigger session, while the day before it eases off and you get what you need done personally. Everyone is back fit for selection so yesterday’s session was intense – Brett Lee was coming in off his long run and bowling real well, so the batters were getting some good practice in before Headingley. It’s always tough for them when they’ve got all five quicks fit and competing for three or four places off their full runs, but they see it as beautiful preparation. With Brett it’s going to be a case of if the selectors feel he is match fit but all the signs seem positive, which is great for the squad. We don’t know much about the makeup of the team. All you can do is prepare like you’re going to play and ready to go if you get the nod.

Brad Haddin seems to be fine too which is a plus, although Graham Manou did well at Edgbaston. He had to sit around for a while as we batted first and then got a good nut off Jimmy Anderson when he was looking comfortable at the crease. It was pleasing to be part of his first catch, a handy one low to his left to get rid of Alastair Cook. I’m sure when the opportunity comes up again in the future he’ll be ready.

Michael Clarke had a little niggle in the ab but he’s coming along fine and has had a lot of time in the middle so the rest will do him good. He’s been excellent this series – he had his disappointments in 2005, but turned it around massively in 06-07 and he’s continued that here. He’s taken a lot of the batting pressure on his shoulders and has shown in this series what he is about.

The way he, Marcus North and Mike Hussey batted on the last day in Birmingham gave us a lot of confidence and gives us some momentum. We need to start well there, whether we bat or bowl. You want to win every Test you play but this is a must-win Test as we are 1-0 down. We need to win these next two Tests to stay at No.1 in the world rankings, and while we haven’t spoken about it, we are a proud team and want to keep that ranking.

Mitchell looked a lot more relaxed at Edgbaston, he bowled some great spells and he had that pace and aggression back. The ball also started swinging for him again. He’s starting to look like he’s getting back to where he wants to be, which is great for Australian cricket.

We know we have a good chance at Headingley. Ravi Bopara and Alastair Cook have been struggling for runs at the top of the England order and when guys are down on runs they are the ones you want to target and attack. We are looking to get on top of them early – even if we don’t get them out early we are looking to contain their scoring shots. Ian Bell showed his experience at Edgbaston, it’s always tough coming into the side for a player like Pietersen. He played to his game, didn’t try to show people what he can do, and the runs came for him.

England’s middle-order have been very positive against us, with Matt Prior and Andrew Flintoff they key aggressors. We expected that, that’s the way their gameplan is, but at times throughout this series Mitchell and myself haven’t been as tight and consistent as we normally are. The economy rate has been high as I said last week, but that is the way the game is played at the moment. It can be difficult when one team is on a roll to stop the scoring shots, so this Test we need to be more consistent and work harder on blocking off their runs.

All the bowlers on either side have had their moments over the series, Jimmy Anderson and Graham Onions were sensational on the second morning, but the next two Tests will come down to which bowlers can stand up and be the most consistently successful for their team.

There’s been a lot of talk about the crowd’s treatment of Ricky Ponting, but I didn’t notice too much of that. I think that’s just the way they were, they seemed to treat everyone the same and they weren’t too over the top. They weren’t disrespectful, I think when you go to play in another country you expect the crowds to be strongly behind the home team, the way ours are at home. It all adds to the excitement.

Peter Siddle is blogging for throughout the Ashes

Posted in Australia, England, Test cricket, The Ashes |

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