England v Australia, 2nd npower Test, Lord's, 2nd day July 17, 2009

Anderson shows Australia he's arrived

England's attack-leader showed the tourists how far he has come with a fine all-round display

Incredible as it may seem, James Anderson is the third longest-serving cricketer on display in this match. Ricky Ponting rumbles ever onwards, and will soon pass Allan Border as Australia's leading run-scorer; Andrew Flintoff has rumbled as far as his dodgy knee can take him, and will soon take his leave of the Test arena. Next in seniority comes Anderson, six years into his time at the top, but still striving to prove that the splash he made in his debut year of 2003 was anything other than a load of froth.

And yet, maybe, just maybe, his time has finally arrived. The suspicion all season has been that Anderson is England's coming man. His command of swing, at high pace and in both directions, has at times left opponents gawping at his skill - he was too good for West Indies, and New Zealand had no answer last year either - but the Australians, you sense, have never really rated his ticker.

To them, he is a confidence cricketer whom it is all too easy to dominate. Until today, the only favourable impression he had ever made against them was during his debut ODI series down under in 2002-03, in particular when his buzzing full length gave Michael Bevan the run-around at Adelaide, but ever since then, he's been all too easily cowed. He was flogged at four-and-a-half an over in three Ashes Tests in 2006-07, having previously been shunned for the epic summer of 2005 - binned from the squad by a wary Duncan Fletcher, despite having toured the world as a net bowler throughout England's run of momentum-building victories.

Today, however, he seized his chance to put the past behind him, and set about proving that the boy has become a man. In truth, the signs have been there for ages - and in all facets of his game. In the field he is arguably the most agile and committed fast bowler on the planet (Stuart Broad's impressive diving catch notwithstanding), while the pride with which he protects his remarkable run of duckless Test innings (51 and counting) is backed up by the guts and determination he has displayed since succeeding Matthew Hoggard as England's designated nightwatchman.

In the past 12 months he has withstood pummellings from Dale Steyn and Fidel Edwards, among others, without retreating an inch, all of which set him up for the performance at Cardiff that not only kick-started England's summer, but massaged his personal mindset into a state of Ashes readiness. His thrilling last-wicket stand with Monty Panesar - 69 balls of match-saving dedication - enabled him to gloss over a bowling effort that had been short, wide and swingless, and reminded him to view his oldest opponents as equals.

"I wouldn't know what my record is against Australia, I've not played much against them," he protested, without quite convincing anyone he meant it. As it happens, prior to this match he had claimed seven wickets against them at 74.71, a record almost double that of his overall Test average. At Lord's on the other hand, he had taken 24 wickets in six Tests at 27.79, including two of his six five-wicket hauls. He likes the surroundings, and today it showed.

"We used the fact that we got out of jail a bit [at Cardiff], and were still in the series at 0-0, and we knew we had to take advantage," said Anderson. "We didn't want to waste getting a draw by coming here and not performing." That meant playing to his strengths - aiming full and inviting lateral movement - rather than allowing over-elaborate gameplans to confuse his basic approach. The early dismissal of Phillip Hughes may have been a strangle down the leg-side, but at least he was not drawn into a naïve attempt to bludgeon him from the crease, as was the misguided case at Cardiff.

Besides, he had a man at the other end who could perform that role to perfection. Flintoff had been overlooked for the new ball in the first Test, and Andrew Strauss had the good sense to recognise his error and rectify it. Though Anderson has rarely bowled well with the big man alongside him in the side, today the pair meshed superbly. By bowling them in tandem, instead of one after the other, it no longer felt as though Flintoff was looming over Anderson's shoulder, waiting to pick up the pieces when his new-ball burst had been repelled.

At last they were equals in England's attack - the lanky enforcer pushing the Australians back into the crease, and the zippy destroyer dragging them forward again. "I think the way Fred bowled in that first six-over spell from the Pavilion End, he can take as much credit for those wickets as I can," said Anderson. "The Nursery End hasn't got much pace, you can't really bang it in, but as we saw from Broady and Fred, there's a little bit more from [the other] end, so the balance was pretty good."

These days there's a stature about Anderson that cannot be communicated through his forever softly-spoken words. Only his deeds can put the point across. "He's getting better results now so probably his self-confidence is a bit higher now than what it was in Australia," said Mike Hussey, who was one of his chief tormentors in Australia three years ago. "It seems like he has improved, but he seems a very similar bowler to what I faced in 2006-07."

Perhaps he is. After all, you cannot be a Test candidate for six years without possessing an innate quality that forces the selectors to keep coming back to you - and England certainly believed in his je ne sais quoi when they plucked him from Burnley league cricket as a 20-year-old. What matters is that Anderson, at last, believes in it himself.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on July 18, 2009, 9:53 GMT

    Good article. Anderson can be really threatining with hi swing bowling. He slowly and steadily developing into a good batsman. I will not be surprised if he turns out to be a genuine allrounder in the coming years

  • Steven on July 18, 2009, 8:46 GMT

    I made a comment at the start of the India series in 2007 that Anderson need to have a good run in the side to ensure he gained the self confidence to back his indisputable talent. So glad to be proven right against all the nay-sayers.

    What Andrew has ignored about the 06-07 series is that JA was woefully underfit after 6 months out with a back op and should never have been selected, but was symptomatic of his treatment by Fletcher after 2003.

    We are now seeing Anderson come into his own as Englands premier bowler. His statement that he wants to fill Freddie's boots is so true, both from a boewling perspective and as a character on the field, as befits somebody who has been in international cricket for 6 years

  • Dan on July 18, 2009, 8:43 GMT

    One thing to remember with Jimmy Anderson is the destruction wrought on his career by Troy Cooley "correcting" his action. Cooley has a large reputation but he ruined Anderson for two years. Fortunately he now seems to be working the same magic on Mitchell Johnson.

  • saurav on July 18, 2009, 6:34 GMT

    Anderson has always been a great bowler in bits and patches until now. He always bowls some unplayable deliveries in every match(even on the tour on India) but then compensates for them by bowling wide or short. The article is right on the money, every bowler should bowl the way he can get wickets, and not overanalyze the batsman technique and make grand plans. In Anderson's case its bowling length.

  • Luke on July 18, 2009, 5:54 GMT

    As much as it pains me to say as an Australian: we have to get out of jail even more than England did in the last test if we are to salvage a draw. England have out-bowled us by miles and their 400 odd looks far more imposing than it did at first glance. Saving a miracle by Hauritz and Siddle with the bat, England should trounce us by loads. Congrats England: one of the Cricinfo fellas said England would not play as bad as they did in the first test again in the series. If he is right Aus will struggle to retain the Ashes. You can accept great dismissals from great bowling but when your batsmen throw wickets by playing stupid shots - that's a little hard to take. We haven't gotten away with that for a couple of years so one would have hoped we'd have learnt our lesson. It appears we still bat with unmeasured arrogance.

  • andrews on July 18, 2009, 5:29 GMT

    Plenty of people wanting to jump up and down about the leading runscorer error, which was a pretty stupid mistake. It's been changed and now doesn't make sense. But the larger mistake is that of fast bowlers and fielding. There is no way Anderson is as committed or agile (or skilled) as Mitchell Johnson or Brett Lee.

  • Raghuraman on July 18, 2009, 2:50 GMT

    From whatever little that I have seen on him, Anderson looks to be spirited and inspired and England can be a force to reckon with Strauss on lead, Anderson, Collingwood etc. Collingwood's shot selection may draw some criticism but with Strauss in fine form at the other end, criticism is just taking things too far. After all, if not for Collingwood England could not have saved the first test.

  • James on July 18, 2009, 0:01 GMT

    Great article Andrew. I must say that it give me great pleasure to see Anderson doing so well against the Australians. He has been grossly mistreated by England in the past, made to carry drinks when he should have been learning his trade in county cricket, I feel this almost wasted his early promise. It shows great strength of character to come back the way he has. I only hope he continues to improve and can develop some weapons when the ball does not swing.

  • ishaan on July 17, 2009, 21:56 GMT

    Nice article overall, Anderson seems to have taken his time to get his head screwed on straight, but now looks to be making up for lost time. On another note, is Alan Border really still the worlds leading run scorer or are Andrew Miller's and Cricinfo's standards slipping...?

  • karan on July 17, 2009, 21:44 GMT

    Andrew, Ricky Ponting will not become the world's leading run scorer. He is miles behind Sachin. Also one bad performance from Anderson and this article will be forgotten forever. So please let the guy perform consistently and then glorify Anderson.

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