Warwickshire seamer Ryan Sidebottom departed Northampton on Sunday clutching a very welcome new possession - the match ball from his first Specsavers County Championship appearance of the season.
Since joining the Bears last year Sidebottom has shown a distinct aptitude for starting well. On his debut at Lord’s last August he took six for 70 in the match to set up victory over Middlesex.
This time round, he eclipsed that with match-figures of 34.4-8-96-10, now proudly inscribed on the ball, as Warwickshire beat Northamptonshire by an innings and 48 runs.
Called up after Olly Stone and Keith Barker were injured, he bowled with sustained aggression and accuracy on a slow pitch which was not easy for batting but which also offered bowlers little help beyond the new ball.
So the dream goes on for the 28-year-old Aussie. This time last year, he had just arrived in England to play Birmingham League cricket for Berkswell, hoping for maybe a sniff at county cricket. A year on he is high in Warwickshire’s bowling plans and contracted at Edgbaston until the end of 2019.
“The game at Northampton is something I’ll cherish for a long time,” he said. “It was disappointing not to be picked for the first game having done all the work through pre-season but that’s the way it goes in a professional environment. You have to move on quickly. It was unfortunate for Barks and Stoney to get injured but I was just grateful for the chance and pleased with how it worked out.
“It was very much a new-ball wicket. When the ball got soft it was hard to get it through so you could never let you foot off the throttle. Credit to all the bowlers. They steamed in and hit the wicket hard. It just happened to be my match to take the wickets.
“It was a really good performance by the team. Any time you win a four-day game in three days is pretty special.”
Sidebottom and his team-mates can rest up during the next round of championship matches before facing Derbyshire at Edgbaston on May 3. With Barker and Stone likely to be fit by then, Warwickshire will face some interesting selection decisions. It’s hard to leave out a chap who’s just taken ten in the match - though Jack Bannister once took ten in an innings (ten for 41 against Combined Services) for Warwickshire then was dropped for the next game as senior players returned.
Sidebottom just wants to stay involved and play a big part as the Bears challenge to go straight back up in the championship.
“It was great to be rewarded with another contract for next season,” he said. “That takes that out of my mind and allows me to crack on with the work in hand; to help get Warwickshire, the great county that it is, back up into Division One where we belong.
“It’s really exciting to be part of the new guys coming in. To see Henry Brookes bat and bowl the way he did at Northampton was unbelievable. He has such a bright future and there is a heap of young guys coming through and waiting for their opportunity and I wish them all the luck in the world when they get it.”