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Sidebottom intends to step up to be a leader of the seam attack as they prepare for a return to Division One

The 29-year-old is preparing for his second full season at Edgbaston, now back in the West Midlands after wintering in his native Australia.

Sidebottom is set to be a key component of a reshaped seam department which has lost three long-time contributors; Keith Barker, Boyd Rankin and Chris Wright. There are some big shoes to fill – and he is looking to play a senior role following a winter back home spent in a mixture of recuperation and playing grade cricket in Victoria.

It’s a very exciting time for us because the opportunity is there for all of us and anyone who starts the season well has a great chance to nail down a place in the team.

Ryan Sidebottom

“To win the Division Two title last year was great but everybody knows it will be a step up again this time,” Sidebottom said. “That is the challenge both for me personally and the group, especially the bowling group because we have lost some very senior players.

“We have a few bowlers who have not played a lot of First Division cricket and I am one of those so it is a great opportunity for us. As one of the older members of the bowling group, I want to become a leader of the attack, rather than just a member of it.

“It’s a very exciting time for us because the opportunity is there for all of us and anyone who starts the season well has a great chance to nail down a place in the team. I will be striving to do that, not only in the championship but in white-ball cricket. I didn’t play any white-ball last year but it is something I’m keen to do as I want to keep challenging myself.”

Sidebottom has risen to all the challenges put before him for the Bears so far. Though affected by injury last season he still took 25 championship wickets at 25.48 apiece, earning him a contract extension until the end of 2020.

He will start the 2019 campaign just one wicket short of 50 in first-class cricket, his first 49 having arrived at an impressive average of 25.44 runs apiece.

“I am happy with how my first-class stats look, though that has a lot to do with the other guys having bowled so well,” he said. “That has kept the pressure off me and meant I have just been able to go out there and relax. Hopefully now I can start to help the other bowlers in a similar way.

“It is great for me to have the security of a contract until the end of 2020. I think the appointment of Paul Farbrace as sport director has excited us all and the contract means I have got a little bit of time to try to impress Paul and the guys in the coaching set-up. I’m just really looking forward to getting stuck into the season.”