September 14, 2008

Mike Holmans

Inside Mr. Inconsistent

Mike Holmans

How much does having a memory hinder us when watching cricket? How hard is it to change your mind?

Or, to put it another way, how accurate is it to describe Jimmy Anderson as inconsistent, as some people did replying to my piece about Matthew Hoggard?

Imagine, if you will, an Andy Jameson. Without a past to live down, Jameson comes into the England team at Wellington and gets a five-fer on debut. Then he has a horrible match at Napier where he goes for plenty. A decent match at Lord’s is followed by a truly dismal performance in the first innings at Old Trafford, and then a devastating 7-43 at Trent Bridge shoots New Zealand out for 123. In the series against South Africa which follows, he has match returns of 3-114, 3-136, 4-132 and 5-127.

After nine matches this year, he has 42 wickets at just under 28 apiece. He has had a spectacular peak and a couple of nasty troughs, but generally he seems to be doing pretty decently and getting better.

If those were the only facts in evidence, would not the discovery of Jameson be lauded as one of the finds of the year, and would anyone be going on about his inconsistency?

Back here in the real world, though, Jimmy Anderson came into the England side trailing a wagonload of baggage. For four years he had been making occasional appearances when other people were injured, collecting 62 wickets in 20 matches at the depressing cost of 39. Sure, there was the odd good spell, but all too often he was off target or lacking in pace and batsmen just helped themselves to boundary after boundary from the all-you-can-eat buffet.

To me - and to most England fans, I’d guess Anderson’s bowling at Napier and the first innings at Old Trafford were not unfortunate wobbles but reversion to type. I still assumed that Hoggard would soon reclaim his spot.

It was Trent Bridge that convinced me that Anderson had supplanted Hoggard in the pecking order. Even with a favourable wind, atmosphere and pitch I could not conceive of the Hoggster delivering a spell that deadly.

As the South Africa series progressed, I was won over. By The Oval, I was no longer nervous as he prepared to bowl. In fact I had become pretty confident that the South Africans would not be getting off to a flier, and had even begun to watch the first over of a spell of his with mild optimism that it might be a very good one. Though I was usually disappointed, it showed the balance of my expectation had changed.

If I only had this year to go on, I am fairly sure that I would be a lot more enthusiastic about Anderson, but as it is I wonder whether Ryan Sidebottom should not replace him once he is fit again. At least until Trent Bridge, Sidebottom had been obviously superior as a bowler. Afterwards, though, is it attaching residual blame for his previous transgressions to doubt that he has also surpassed Sidebottom given that he basically outbowled him all summer?

The question becomes critical as soon as the next Test in Ahmedabad. Captain Pietersen is clearly keen on Harmison, Panesar and Flintoff will certainly play, and there will be an all-rounder from Nottinghamshire, though whether Broad, Swann or Patel remains unknown. That only leaves one place for Sidebottom and Anderson to fight over.

My heart tells me to pick Anderson. My head says that Sidebottom has the proven record.

I am so glad I am not a selector.

RSS Feeds: Mike Holmans

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by S on (September 18, 2008, 16:14 GMT)

Dont worry. By the time England reach India, there surely will be an injury or three leaving plenty of room for Vaughan, Strauss, Anderson and Sidebottom.

Posted by Mike Holmans on (September 15, 2008, 8:06 GMT)

So, Brendanvio, how weak do you think South Africa are? They are only ranked number two in the world, although that would seem to be higher than India or Sri Lanka.

Posted by Roger@1stSlip on (September 15, 2008, 7:49 GMT)

Anderson probably should and will more than likely get the nod ahead of Sidebottom in a contest over a place. The positive out of all of this is at last England have depth and replacement players of quality in their bowling attack. By reinvigorating Harmison, backing Broad, going with Andersen and introducing Patel...Pitersen has suddenly started to develop options and depth in the bowling. This is a great and shrewd move and an excellent preparation for next years Ashes Series because England's bowling stocks will need to be at their very best to beat Australia in 2009.

Posted by Roger@1stSlip on (September 15, 2008, 7:49 GMT)

Anderson probably should and will more than likely get the nod ahead of Sidebottom in a contest over a place. The positive out of all of this is at last England have depth and replacement players of quality in their bowling attack. By reinvigorating Harmison, backing Broad, going with Andersen and introducing Patel...Pitersen has suddenly started to develop options and depth in the bowling. This is a great and shrewd move and an excellent preparation for next years Ashes Series because England's bowling stocks will need to be at their very best to beat Australia in 2009.

Posted by Brendanvio on (September 15, 2008, 1:11 GMT)

I'm still unconvinced. Anderson is yet to deliver against a strong test side, and until he can deliver against an India, Sri Lanka or Australia, I don't believe he should be playing for England.

Posted by Hamish on (September 14, 2008, 14:49 GMT)

All attempts at deriving an appropriate descriptive for James Anderson's current skill level are moot. All that matters is that right now, Sidebottom has done more to deserve a place than Anderson. Though *MY* heart tells me that England's batting line-up is strong enough to go Flintoff, Harmison, Anderson, Sidebottom and Panesar.

Posted by Dann on (September 14, 2008, 6:25 GMT)

That is so true. Anderson though being great on his day is quite ordinary in general. this year tere have been signes of improvement but still according to me, he should really prove his metal by being consistent in ODI's for a year and then try to claim a pemanent test spot. Siddbottom for me has already proved his ability and should be given a longer run than just a year.

Comments have now been closed for this article