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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 12:30 GMT
Serious Sidebottom
By Sam Lyon

As comeback stories go, Ryan Sidebottom's return to the England team is a pretty good one.

Ryan Sidebottom
Now that I've got that contract, I'm even more determined to go out every match and prove my worth

Ryan Sidebottom

Cast aside from the international set-up for six years after just one Test, the Nottinghamshire paceman burst back onto the scene in dramatic style in 2007.

Having snared eight wickets on his return against the West Indies, Sidebottom finished six Tests with 24 wickets at an average of 25.75.

It helped earn him a central contract last month and means, with Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison making their way back from injury, Sidebottom could begin next month's Test tour to Sri Lanka as England's number one bowler.

All this from a bowler who felt forced to leave Yorkshire in 2004 to join Nottinghamshire because of a lack of opportunities.

"I just didn't feel I was quite given the chances at Yorkshire," he told BBC Sport. "And I owe a big thank you to everyone at Notts because I've gone there, been given the new ball, and my cricket has gone forward exactly as I wanted it to."

Which is right back in the England mix and fast climbing the International Cricket Council rankings list.

But the 29-year-old insists his form at international level has not surprised him, despite a disappointing return of 0-64 from 20 overs in that first Test against Pakistan.

"I've always had faith in my ability," he said. "I don't see this year as a resurgence or anything.

"I've performed well day in, day out with Nottinghamshire and I knew there was every chance I would get another opportunity at some stage if I kept doing that.

606: DEBATE
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"That said, you never know how it's going to go once you're back at the top level, so I'm just grateful I've been able to take my chance and show what I can do."

It's clearly a philosophy that has worked wonders so far this year for Sidebottom - and he insists more is still to come.

England's 15-man squad fly out to Sri Lanka on Thursday ahead of their three-Test series, looking to replicate their historic one-day series win there.

Sidebottom played a key part in that series, taking 12 wickets at a remarkable average of 13.83, and he said: "It's been a terrific feeling, coming back for England, playing well and capping it all off with a central contract.

"Now that I've got that contract, I'm even more determined to go out every match and prove my worth.

"And there will be no better place for me to do that than in Sri Lanka. We earned a great series win out there in the one-dayers and the lads are relishing getting going in the Tests.

"We know it will be a difficult tour but, on a personal level, it's another opportunity for me to prove a point - to prove that I am a top class international performer."

Physically and mentally I think we're at the top of our game so hopefully things will take care of themselves

Ryan Sidebottom

Preparation for the series started with a training camp at Loughborough last week, where England coach Peter Moores began working with the players in earnest on their plans for Sri Lanka.

"Peter feels very strongly about us being the fittest team around so there was a lot of conditioning, but we also took time to look at our plans and strategies," said Sidebottom.

"We know conditions will be hot and humid, and the wickets slow, but physically and mentally we're at the top of our game so hopefully things will take care of themselves."

And he is convinced seam will have a big part to play in the series, despite spin traditionally dominating on the sub continent.

The seamer dispelled suggestions he was an 80mph bowler reliant on swing by regularly hitting 90mph this summer and taking wickets in less than favourable conditions in Sri Lanka.

And he said: "I know I have it in my armoury to bowl a bit quicker. I've been encouraged to do that at Nottinghamshire and it's something I've used this summer.

Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison (foreground)
Hoggard and Harmison could struggle to displace Sidebottom despite their return from injury

"I suspect it will do a bit early on with the new ball in Sri Lanka, and hopefully reverse swing will come into it as the ball gets older.

"Chaminda Vaas has proven time and again that there is a place for seam in Sri Lanka and I'm sure it will be a complete team effort out there.

"We have to ensure we bowl as a unit, the seamers backing up the spinners and vice versa. That might mean different strategies - bouncers, bowling both sides of the wicket, slower balls and so on - and we have those options in our make up.

"Apart from myself, there's (Steve) Harmison, (Matthew) Hoggard, (Stuart) Broad, (James) Anderson, (Monty) Panesar and (Graeme) Swann - the quality is there."

England have only ever won one Test series in Sri Lanka prior to this tour - sealed in Colombo in 2001 - but Sidebottom insists the side fly out in determined mood.

"It's is going to take a massive team effort," he said. "It'll be good once we're out there for us to look at the wickets and finalise how we want to approach each Test.

"But we have got a fantastic squad and the spirit is brilliant. Just like the one-dayers I'm sure a lot of people will write us off, but we're going out there to win."

And on a personal level?

If we can come away with a series victory... it will be an unbelievable achievement

Ryan Sidebottom

"I don't set myself particular goals in terms of wickets or anything - I just want to go out, play with a smile on my face and take my chances when they come," he said.

"If we can come away with a series victory, in the knowledge I've given it my all and hopefully played my part, it will be an unbelievable achievement."

Given how his summer has gone so far, Sidebottom leading England to victory is not something many people would bet against this time around.



SEE ALSO
Moores sure over Harmison future
13 Nov 07 |  England
Ruthless England discard Strauss
19 Oct 07 |  England
England must toughen up - Moores
13 Oct 07 |  England
England seal historic series win
10 Oct 07 |  England
Secrets to Notts success
17 Sep 05 |  Counties
England seal series in Sri Lanka
17 Mar 01 |  England on Tour
England in Sri Lanka 2007
25 Jun 07 |  Cricket


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