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Sidebottom in line to face Black Caps

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England bowler Ryan Sidebottom will be fit to face New Zealand in the opening Test on Wednesday as he prepares for a confrontation with one of the biggest influences on his career.

Sidebottom had been a doubt after sustaining a slight tear to his right hamstring, initially thought serious enough to rule him out of the start of the series at Seddon Park.

But the left-arm seamer, arguably England's best bowler over the last 12 months, came through a testing practice session on Monday to declare himself fit for selection, while all-rounder Paul Collingwood has also recovered from his own hamstring trouble.

"I'm fighting fit and available for selection," claimed Sidebottom.

"It's a bit of relief because it's a worry when you get injured. You don't want to miss Test matches and you don't want to miss tours.

"I'm not getting on the plane home so I'm happy with that and I'm raring to go now.

"You don't want to make it worse and you need time for these things to recover, but I've had two or three days rest and recovery and preparation."

His recovery has set the stage for his showdown with former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who has already announced this series will be his last.

Fleming was a key influence on Sidebottom when the pair were together at Nottinghamshire as they led the county to championship glory in 2005, and has spoken since spoken about the 30-year-old in glowing terms.

"He's had some lovely words to say about me," added Sidebottom.

"He's a lovely bloke and for someone like him to say those things about me is quite an honour, but I'm looking forward to bowling at him and hopefully I can knock him over.

"He probably didn't help me that much actually during the games but afterwards he would tell me a few things about my game and what I needed to improve on and what it's like playing in Test matches.

"He's also a very positive captain and he's made me into a much more positive character when I'm bowling, and encourages me to keep plugging away and not give up.

"He used to keep the slips in for most of the time so you had to bowl well.

"He generally had two or three slips in so you had to make sure you were on the money more often than not and that was really good for my game - he always set attacking fields and that definitely helped my bowling."

Indeed it was Fleming who England turned to for a recommendation about Sidebottom when searching for a replacement for the injured Matthew Hoggard prior to last summer's second Test against West Indies at Headingley.

He has since flourished in the international arena, although he admits he may have to curb his reaction to disappointments such as dropped catches after showing several flashes of temper in recent months.

"I've been happy with the way I've been bowling," he said.

"I've bowled well over the last 18 months and that's all I can do, really, keep doing the right things and keep putting the ball in the right areas.

"Sometimes catches get dropped but that's the way it goes sometimes.

"The lads keep going on about me having white line fever but I'm not going to change that too much.

"I think aggression is part of my game and when I'm pumped up I think I bowl pretty well.

"I have to curb it a little bit because sometimes you do get frustrated and you have to get on with it and keep bowling. Sometimes I do go over the top a little bit and react too much."
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