Mike Holmans December 8, 2008

Focus Anderson

If England are to do well, there will need to be big contributions from several players

We’ve done the bit about whether or not it should go ahead at all, so let’s talk about cricket, shall we? And let’s ignore the flim-flam about being poorly-prepared: Indian cricketers are as capable of being upset by terrorism at home as English players there on a visit, and everyone has had their plans disrupted.

The England player I shall be keeping the closest eye on in this two-parter (you can’t call two matches a “series” with a straight face) is Jimmy Anderson, who could show that he is at last coming into his own.

His performances in the ODIs may make this seem far-fetched, but he has always been fairly poor in limited-overs cricket whereas his Test performances this year have been in a different league to those which went before.

How poor an ODI bowler he is was not apparent until he was partnered by someone who isn’t. In the 20 ODIs in which they opened England’s bowling this year, both Anderson and Stuart Broad conceded 747 runs. The difference is that Anderson took 10 wickets and went for 5.66 an over while Broad took 31 and went for 4.78.

In nine Tests this year, on the other hand, Anderson has taken 42 wickets at 27.60. Where one struggles to find ODIs in which he has even performed acceptably, in Tests he has had only two poor innings this year, the worst being at Old Trafford when Ross Taylor climbed into him. But he responded in the next game at Trent Bridge with the best spell of bowling by an England bowler since 2005 (at least), the figures a career-best 7 for 43.

Blowing away the 2008 New Zealand top order is admittedly not all that difficult – a light breeze would usually suffice – but Anderson’s spell of late swing at speed would have accounted for at least four of any top order you care to name.

The big difference for Anderson between the two forms comes in the field settings. When not bowling his victims or having them caught by the keeper, first slip catches off him are comparatively rare. In Tests, Anderson’s chief collaborators stand in the arc from third slip to gully. In ODIs, batsmen hit him through that arc with great regularity but no-one is around to catch them.

It was not ever thus. For four years from his England debut while Duncan Fletcher still headed the coaching staff, constant efforts were made to get him to change his bizarre action. In particular, they wanted him to look down the wicket at the stumps or batsman when releasing the ball rather than gazing at the bowler’s end umpire’s shoes. Very occasionally during this purgatorial period there would be a gem of a searing spell to remind us that there was a talented bowler lurking somewhere in the neighbourhood, but we would wait months for a repeat.

But since Fletcher moved on and Ottis Gibson has taken over the bowling coach’s job, Anderson has been allowed to revert to his natural action and the results have been dramatically better.

The fascinating question is whether he will be able to continue his Test success streak in conditions rather different to those encountered in England and New Zealand. It ought to be possible: both Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan bowl the same general sort of stuff and do well in India, but then they’ve been doing it forever whereas Anderson still has a lot of learning to do about Indian pitches.

If England are to do well, there will need to be big contributions from several players. If Anderson does to Sehwag what Matthew Hoggard did to Matt Hayden in the 2005 Ashes, he will have taken another big step forward as well as giving underdogs England a fighting chance.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 17, 2008, 9:39 GMT

    For all those people who had claimed that anderson might do well.....please check the detailed scoreboard once again if you dint really beleive your eyes the first time you saw it!!!!

  • testli5504537 on December 10, 2008, 2:06 GMT

    If the pitch has any moisture in it at Chennai, I think Anderson will do very well, as long as he doesn't bowl it short. Harmison and Flintoff can bang it in, and I hope Sajid Mahmood gets a game, too, but damp conditions will suit Anderson very well. Good luck to him and to England. I don't think any of their pace bowlers will give up a 100 runs in an innings.

  • testli5504537 on December 9, 2008, 22:01 GMT

    To be honest i see anderson playing a Krezja type roll, he will be hammered all over the park (especially by Gambhir, Sehwag and Dhoni) but pick up top order wickets to their own undoing and between him and harmison they will wipe out the tail, something i believe they will be far better at than australia was.

  • testli5504537 on December 9, 2008, 10:08 GMT

    Paul Frame - Neither of Sreesanth, RP Singh and Pathan is playing in this series. They are all fringe players for India but Anderson is supposed to open the bowling for England. He might have bowled McCullum at trantbridge. But this is India where SG ball is used. Here the ball will not swing to second slip let alone catching at second slip. Fast bowlers have been gruelling here save the last Ind Vs Aus series where Ishant survived with his bounce and slower deliveries and Zaheer survived with his early reverse swing. Indian batsmen might be troubled by the incoming delivery but not certainly the outgoing delivery because the margin for error is very less in India esp in Chennai. I will not be surprised if Pieterson with his off breaks gets more wickets than Anderson

  • testli5504537 on December 8, 2008, 18:29 GMT

    Well Anderson is a good bowler and he really is not that consistent, but if he can keep Sehwag under control, that will mean that England has a good chance, if India cant get off to a good start England will get there hopes high and might just smell the possibility of triggering the traditional Great Indian Fall(The ability of High profile Indian batsmen to loose wicket after wicket), which we havnt seen for quite some time now. But to be honest Between Sehwag and Dohni we have a really good batting lineup which will require lots of patience and disciplin from all English bowlers to get a good result.

  • testli5504537 on December 8, 2008, 16:19 GMT

    Anderson took 15 wickets against south africa @ 33 apiece, whilst against south africa, in march and april Sressanth, Pathan and RP Singh took 4 wickets between them at >70.

    over 2008 Anderson has 42 wickets from 9 matches at an average of 27 and a strike rate of 47.

    so he's taken wickets against the second best test team on the planet, and also been staggeringly consistent this year.

    that's not to say he won't have a bad match, but at least that first ball won't go to straight to second slip, it will just swing to second slip, that's his value to the team.

    for further information i refer you to the delivery that bowled Brendon McCullum at trent bridge.

  • testli5504537 on December 8, 2008, 12:10 GMT

    oh!. aren't we talking about James Anderson? well, I must say there is a lot of optimism flowing here. yes Anderson is a talended bowler, but he has proved his greatest ability in terms of being inconsistent. Anderson did well against NewZealand, however was not up to the mark against South Africa, and his ODI performance has been terrible in the India series. when we say that, one has to remember that Anderson has been the most consistent ODI bowler for England after Fredye Flintoff, and in the present side he has more wickets than anyother bowlers except Fredye in that form. but its again Anderson,, I certainly don't have high hopes, but I know its Jimmy, and so anything can happen.

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