August 1, 2010

Mike Holmans

A swinger's paradise

Mike Holmans
James Anderson collects a stump after taking his 11th wicket and sealing England's win, England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Trent Bridge, 1 August 2010
James Anderson destroyed Pakistan with 11 wickets at Trent Bridge  © Getty Images
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While Pakistan remain in exile, they could do a great deal worse than make Trent Bridge their headquarters. Since the opening of the Fox Road stand in 2003, the Trent Bridge micro-climate has been a virtual guarantee of swing. If you are sceptical about how so simple a thing as a stand can have this kind of effect, consider that the MCC specified that all schemes for redevelopment at Lord's had to maintain the present gap between the stands because their computer modelling had shown that without it the ball would no longer swing.

Pakistan may have been flattened in this Test, but that's because Ijaz Butt got it slightly wrong in his pre-match touting of Mohammads Asif and Amir as the best swing bowlers in the world. The best swing bowler in the world is James Anderson, and has been for a couple of years.

While Ijaz Butt understandably went over the top about the Mohammads' world standing, they are probably second and third on the list. The only other real contenders are Zaheer Khan and Ben Hilfenhaus, so it's a limited field. Amir and Asif are streets ahead of Hilfenhaus and at least a few metres ahead of Zaheer. Trent Bridge is Pakistan's ideal Test ground given their current attack - so long as they aren't up against England.

When properly executed, swing bowling is a delight to watch, especially as there are so few batsmen who can play it well; at its best, no batsmen can, and what we saw in Nottingham was almost as perfect an exhibition of top-class swing bowling as can be imagined. The only real blemish was that Pakistan do not back up their brilliant bowlers with even halfway-competent catchers. (They also have some bloke standing around behind the stumps wearing pads and gloves but it's not altogether clear what he's there for, since he’s definitely not a wicket-keeper.) England, on the other hand, have bred a flock of predatory magpies who will snatch anything which flies in their general direction.

Despite the huge margin of victory, it was the fielding that decided the match. England would probably not have passed 180 in the first innings if Eoin Morgan had been snaffled when on 5, and the match would have taken a rather different course, I fancy, if the first-innings lead had been closer to 20 than 200. Every team will miss the odd chance, so whether you can take twenty wickets depends on how many chances you have to create to take them. England needed about 22 to get their 20 successes, whereas Pakistan created about 35 and still only took 19.

That imbalance shows that this series can still be a lot closer than one might expect after such a lopsided result in the first Test. Pakistan were beaten out of sight by Australia at Lord's as England were in 2005, yet Australia won neither series. Should Pakistan give up coating their hands in oil before going out to field, we could well be in for that rare thing in modern Test cricket, a series dominated by the ball.

And what a relief that will be. The ludicrous “Test” played by India and Sri Lanka last week is the kind of farce we have far too much of these days, and Trent Bridge was a welcome antidote to the overpowering sedative of the Colombo SSC.

But, for reasons hinted at in my opening paragraph, I would not have given the Man of the Match award to James Anderson. The company's brochure does not name him, but the true hero was the man from Maber Associates who oversaw the design and construction of the Fox Road stand.

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Posted by waterbuffalo on (August 7, 2010, 5:35 GMT)

I think Pakistan can be officially named as the dumbest cricket team in the world, they called up Mohd. Yousuf, and then they didn't play him, preferring to go 2-0 down, ostensibly, they win the toss, and choose to bat, and what happens? 72, all out, a more spectacular demise than 80 all out, Waqar and Salman should be proud of themselves, well they deserve it, stick with the young batsmen, maybe in the next inngs, they can score 60, I hope Yousuf and Younis don't play, I want to see Pakistan out for 48, might as well break some sort of record while you are over there.

Posted by GD on (August 5, 2010, 8:06 GMT)

Willing to bet that Hilfenhaus takes more wickets than Anderson in the forthcoming Ashes series, Mike.

Posted by Adwait Parulekar on (August 3, 2010, 4:43 GMT)

Mike, u've got it spot on, Pakistan's fielding was the only difference & it has been for quite a few years. The "2 M's" are really good n so is Jimmy. Hoping for a tighter series!!

Posted by Fan on (August 3, 2010, 2:14 GMT)

lol - Pakistan may have been flattened in this Test, but that's because Ijaz Butt got it slightly wrong in his pre-match touting of Mohammads Asif and Amir as the best swing bowlers in the world. The best swing bowler in the world is James Anderson, and has been for a couple of years. I guess if Butt (whichever one) didn't tout them as the best, Pakistan would not have been flattened. Grow up man, and be professional. Also, James Anderson is NOT the best swing bowler in the world, how many times has he dominated an attack - this Paki lineup is not a good yardstick to measure against; also when it swings Dale Steyn is far more dangerous.

Posted by fahad khan on (August 2, 2010, 23:02 GMT)

Wondeful blog mike ! As an extremely embarrased pakistani, I am grateful that you are looking at the positives. I really hope that you are correct in predicting a close series...personally i have pretty much given up on this team. As for my overly defensive countrymen, we dont have to start jumping up and down just because asif and aamer have been called only slightly better than zaheer khan ! zaheer khan has 200+ wickets with a very good record in england, our bowlers have a long way to go still. Not being able to bowl england out for under 200 in either of the innings in such helpful conditions isnt really a performance to brag about. Lets leave the hype for now until they really become conssistently good enough.

Posted by Venkat on (August 2, 2010, 22:23 GMT)

Fine bowling by Anderson, Asif and Aamer.

Someone (in reply to the blog) has mentioned that Anderson is good only when conditions help the ball to swing - well then let's enjoy his art when he is able to display it. Superb control! I doubt that many of today's batsmen would have been able to face him (at Trent Bridge) with required equanimity.

Posted by Mukamilahmad on (August 2, 2010, 15:51 GMT)

I wana say that asif and amir are the best swinging bowlers because if we see that asif has taken may of his wickets in dead pitches of subcontinent but look at the record of jammy anderson,his most wickets he has got are in perfect swinging condition like sydney,trent bridge and some other grounds.so one cant compare jimmy as good bowler than asif.secondly look at fielding,when fielder misses a bolwr chance,how it feels nd same will happens with asif nd amir.so fielding is very important for bowlers.

Posted by Wahaj Hashmi on (August 2, 2010, 14:24 GMT)

Anderson is certainly a top contendor for the best swing bowler in the world,(only when the pitch suits him though), I agree, but hold on, don't go on calling Aamer as someone "behind him". You totally missed the major point, that the Pakistani batting lineup was extremely weak and inexperienced, arguably even worse than a county side, and it was obviously way easier to get this lineup out than the English, which if you missed from noticing, Aamer and Asif were too hot to handle for what apparently is actually one of the top contendors for the best batting lineup in cricket, playing in home conditions! Easily shows whose task was way harder and who is missing some serious praise inspite of deserving it. Aamer and Asif IS the best bowling pair in the world, and its only bound to get better from here on out. Anderson was delightful to watch as well.

Posted by Owais on (August 2, 2010, 13:33 GMT)

This what I would call recency effect. The best bowlers are Styne, Mitchel Johnson (just consider his previous performances and his over tally and bowling average), Siddle, Asif, Aamer, Anderson, Bollinger, Hilfenhaus, Ishant, Zaheer, Gul, Morkel and Braod. And in preciself in this order. Maybe I might have forgotten a few. I dont know what happend to Sidebottom and Stuart Broad who were very very good just a couple of years ago.

Dont forget that all four Aussy strike bowlers are genuine wicket takers, way ahead of andersons and zaheer khans. Anderson, Zaheer, Morkel, Gul (and even Amer) all average in 30's which tells the whole story !!!

So take a break and dont get influenced by what has happened in last 2 months !!!

Posted by Ajay on (August 2, 2010, 13:21 GMT)

don't know why kamran Akmal is still in the team, he was hopeless in Australia-NZ last year and this year he is continuing the same form. I think he needs a break. May be Pakistan could bring in Zulqarnain Haider. Pakistan have a good fast bowling attack but they lack a solid middle order. I guess instead Mhmd Yousuf, they should have included Younus Khan who is already playing county cricket in England. Pakistan team is going through a change, but I am sure they would bounce back strongly

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