Having an experienced campaigner like Ryan Sidebottom in your bowling attack can only continue to benefit Yorkshire, fellow pace bowler Steve Patterson tells Chris Waters.
THERE was a private battle going on as Yorkshire went into their final game of the 2013 season against Surrey at The Oval.
In the red corner was Ryan Sidebottom, the veteran left-arm pace bowler who had taken 47 wickets in the County Championship that year.
In the blue corner was Steve Patterson, the experienced right-arm pace bowler who was just behind, having captured 45 wickets.
At stake was the glory of finishing as Yorkshire’s leading wicket-taker – a race every bit as nip-and-tuck as the First Division title race itself, which Yorkshire had narrowly lost to Durham in the days leading up to their visit to London.
Predictably, the Oval pitch was a pace bowler’s nightmare.
After Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale won the toss, Messrs Sidebottom and Patterson put their feet up as Gary Ballance celebrated his call-up for the Ashes tour with 148 as the visitors amassed 434.
As conditions eased further in the batsmen’s favour, the redoubtable duo then came up against Dominic Sibley, an 18-year-old schoolboy, who became the youngest double centurion in Championship history and Hashim Amla, arguably the world’s best batsman.
Sibley scored 242 and Amla 151, Surrey making 634-5 declared before another century from Ballance put the finishing touches to a drab draw.
Sidebottom emerged from the carnage with another two wickets to his lift his tally to 49 at 20.30, while Patterson captured one to finish with 46 wickets at 25.06, Sidebottom narrowly winning their personal battle.
“Ryan just nicked it from me in the last game of the season,” reflected Patterson, who turned 30 last October.
“He beat me by three, but I beat him the previous year by about 20-odd, so I’m not complaining.
“In all seriousness, there’s a great friendly rivalry between us, a bit of friendly competition, and I’d like to think that we help each other.
“It’s always nice at the end of the year to be there or thereabouts in the wicket-taking department and to be in such good company as someone like Ryan.”
While Sidebottom remains one of cricket’s most enduring figures, with an international career to look back on with pride, Patterson remains something of an unsung hero.
Indeed, he is the only member of Yorkshire’s front-line attack who has not at least played for England Lions, with Tim Bresnan, Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks completing a formidable pace bowling department, and yet Patterson is still one of the first names on the Yorkshire team-sheet.
Should all five front-line seamers be available this year, Gale would have a headache in terms of selection.
And on the evidence of his performances in recent years, there is no way that Patterson would deserve to be dropped.
“We’ve got some good strength in depth in the bowling department, but I certainly don’t take my position for granted by any means,” said Patterson.
“There’s also guys like Moin Ashraf, Ben Coad, Rich Pyrah and so on who can quite easily come in and do a job, so there’s no opportunity to sit back and relax.
“It will be interesting to see how much we have Tim (Bresnan) this year depending on who’s in charge with England and what team they go with, and there’s a lot of different connotations and possibilities going forward.
“But I certainly think we’ve got the strength in depth at Yorkshire to cover any eventuality, and there’s a tremendous amount of competition for places at the moment.”
Although Patterson has been on the scene for several years now, it was not until 2010 that he won a regular place in the Yorkshire XI.
He took 45 wickets in first-class cricket that summer at 26.68 as Yorkshire came within a whisker of winning the title, and after a challenging campaign in 2011 for all concerned as the team were relegated, he was leading wicket-taker with 48 at 20.81 as the club won immediate promotion to Division One.
“It’s pretty straightforward for me,” said Patterson.
“I just work hard in the winter, get as fit as I can, and then hopefully do the business when the summer comes around.
“I just try to go about my business as best I can and to set myself the highest of standards.
“Hopefully, it will pay off for me again this year, but you cannot afford to rest on your laurels.”
Patterson believes Yorkshire will be stronger this summer with players like young opening batsman Alex Lees having now experienced a season playing county cricket, and with Plunkett and Brooks having successfully come through their first campaigns at Headingley.
He also feels that the evergreen Sidebottom – 36 years young and showing no sign of slowing down – remains key to Yorkshire’s chances of winning the title.
“Ryan is still one of the best bowlers in the country, without a doubt,” said Patterson, who is the perfect foil for the former England man. “He is such an important player to have in your side – especially with the variation of being left arm as well.
“You learn a lot from them, players like that, with that much experience of literally the highest level, and it doesn’t always matter how many wickets they get, it’s also about their presence and what they offer in the dressing room, the knowledge they share with the other players.
“That’s why it’s great to have someone like Ryan about and a great tribute to him that he’s still going strong.”