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5:23pm Wednesday 12th March 2008 in Sport
Arnie Sidebottom had never attended a ground to watch his son play for England. He thought it might bring Ryan bad luck. In fact he had only watched him play county cricket a couple of times in his early days with Yorkshire and before his move down to Trent Bridge.
Imagine his surprise when Ryan phoned to invite both his parents to fly to New Zealand for the Test series. Arnie's coaching duties at Woodhouse Grove School allowed him to watch the first two Tests and he soon became a familiar figure in the temporary stand housing the English tour groups at Hamilton.
One of the last professional soccer-cricket all-rounders, Arnie had been a regular member of the Manchester United team for more than a decade when he played his only Test match against Australia in 1985. Hampered by a broken toe and an unresponsive pitch, his fast-medium swing bowling had snared only one wicket in a drawn match.
I hadn't seen him since that game and it was good to catch up again. Soon after I had taken his photo and chatted about Ryan's consistent bowling, he was to witness his son's finest hour.
Having taken New Zealand's last two first innings wickets with successive balls, Ryan began their second innings two days later on a hat-trick. Jamie How easily averted it by glancing a single off a wayward leg-side delivery but, 31 overs later Sidebottom found himself on another one. Having earlier dismissed Matthew Bell and How, the latter to a stunning leaping two-handed catch on the run by Matthew Hoggard, he ended his ninth over by tempting Stephen Fleming to slash a widish ball to a tumbling Alastair Cook at gully.
Sidebottom then watched from the boundary as Monty Panesar enticed Brendon McCullum to miscue a pull that Andrew Strauss sprinted 30 yards from mid-on to hold at mid-wicket.
Ryan began his tenth over to Mathew Sinclair. His first ball was slashed hard and high towards Cook, who leapt high to his left to snatch another breathtaking catch. Out shambled the giant figure of Jacob Oram to face the third hat-trick of the match.
With the England supporters yelling his name, Ryan began his run from our tree house commentary box end. His hedge of auburn hair trailing behind him, he propelled a full length ball that swung in late to the leaden-footed left-hander and pinned him plumb in front of his stumps. Umpire Daryl Harper's raised finger response to a frenzied appeal triggered the bowler's ecstatic celebration. Mane flowing, he was swiftly mobbed with high fives from his colleagues before embarking on a leaping circuit of the square.
The television cameras adroitly focussed on his smiling parents who may well be the only set to have watched any of England's eleven hat-trick bowlers perform the feat in front of them.
Combined with two dismissals by Panesar, Sidebottom's rare feat resulted in the hosts losing five wickets for ten runs. At that point, New Zealand were only 241 ahead with just three wickets left and, for the first time in the match, England had a scent of victory.
Later, an England record-equalling sixth catch of the match by Cook brought Sidebottom his sixth wicket of the innings and his best analysis for England: six for 49. It was also his tenth dismissal of the match, a feat that Bob Willis failed to achieve while taking 325 wickets in 90 Tests.
Had Ryan Sidebottom glimpsed a premonition of his finest hour when he invited his parents to make their journey across the world?