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May 20, 2013
Anderson claimed the 13th five-wicket haul of his Test career in the first innings to become just the fourth England bowler to take 300 Test wickets. Now Saker, England's bowling coach, believes that Anderson has every chance of becoming the first to reach 400.
While Saker accepted that Anderson lacks the pace of South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn, he believes Anderson's desire for continual self-improvement has helped him develop into one of the top seam-and-swing bowlers in world cricket, with a rare ability to swing the ball both ways from a well-disguised action.
"To me, he is the most skilful fast bowler in the world," Saker said. "I know Dale Steyn is an outstanding bowler, but when you watch the way Jimmy goes about things, he has more skills in his locker. Steyn might be a little quicker but watch Anderson deliver those skills and it's just mind-blowing. When he gets it right, there's no more skilful bowler in the world.
"Jimmy keeps getting better. I don't know whether his figures say that, but he's the one player I've coached that is never satisfied with what he's got. For him it would be easy to be satisfied because he has so many skills, but he keeps working on things in training. I've never met a guy as good as him who keeps wanting to get better.
"I remember watching him as a supporter of the Australian team. He could swing the ball but you could always get a four off him. Now it's really hard to get runs off him. He's very rarely cut. He has excellent control and he always tests the batsman. He's a class bowler.
"He has a body that can play for a lot longer, too. We hope he can go beyond 400 wickets and become England's greatest wicket-taker. He has a really nice action, he's a seasoned campaigner and he knows how to manage his body. We hope he can stay on the park for another five or six years."
Saker was almost equally effusive about Stuart Broad. It was Broad who produced the match-clinching performance in the final innings against New Zealand, taking his Test-best figures of 7 for 44 and, though Saker admitted Broad lacked the consistency to be categorised as a great bowler, he suggested such a scenario was possible in the future.
"When he gets everything right, there aren't many better in the world," Saker said. "We'll be talking about that spell for a long time. It's as good a spell as you'll ever see anywhere. He has days where he just tears teams apart and he did it again there.
"The one thing that stands out from the greats to the very good is the greats are consistent. Stuart still has things to learn about bowling. But in my book he's still getting better every time and he's learning a lot from having some down times. He's come back bigger and better from some down times in India. Those things happen. There are a lot of bowlers who have gone through times which are a bit tough."
Saker has made extravagant claims over the strength of England's bowling before. Almost exactly a year ago, he suggested the England attack was "as good as" the Australian attack of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, et al. but, on this occasion, he admitted there was room for improvement from the England unit. Steven Finn, who is struggling for rhythm, is a particular concern for Saker at present.
"He probably isn't bowling as well as he could, but he's getting wickets," Saker said. "He's got that knack of getting wickets. He's got the pace. We're just working on a few little things but I'm sure he'll be all right and confident by Leeds.
"In the first 13 or 14 overs in the first innings we were good, but then we went away from what we knew was going to work. We bowled too short and we got cut quite often. It was the one easy scoring shot to play in the game. There's no trick in cricket: if you bowl a ball that's going to hit the stumps, it puts the batter under pressure. We did that really well on the third morning and in the second innings."
Saker expressed admiration for the New Zealand team, too, but suggested that their impressive performance in the series between the countries in New Zealand may have contributed to England producing a much-improved showing at Lord's. Having bowled them out for just 68 in the second innings, though, Saker feared the tourists may struggle to recover their confidence before the second Test starts in Leeds on Friday.
"The one thing we've learned in recent months is that New Zealand are a bloody good cricket team," Saker said. "They've competed extremely well against us and we've found it really hard to get them out. And their bowlers have been as good as any bowling attack. They've been so disciplined. I think we were all surprised how good they were in New Zealand. So we had a real steely look about us as we're so impressed by the way they've played.
"But it can definitely hurt you being bowled out for 68. When the ball moves, we have a lot of teams' measures. We've some good skilful bowlers. Some days in England it is very tough to bat and now we have a chance to keep kicking them."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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