New Zealand in England 2013 May 20, 2013

Anderson 'most skilful in world' - Saker


David Saker has hailed James Anderson as "the most skilful bowler in the world" following his performance in the first Test of the series against New Zealand at Lord's.

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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmon on May 25, 2013, 11:39 GMT

    @SuperSharky: Fair comment but what amuses me is that even for these two you are talking of fav conditions. There are a number of bowler in the world who will make the batsmen dance in fav conditions. A rookie like Bhuvneshwar Kumar gets the ball to move alarmingly even in India, imagine what movement he would get in England. I am not saying that Bhuvi is more skillful than Steyn or JA, that comparison will be ridiculous but the simple point is that on a green top, you don't need too much skill to make the ball talk. All you need is application. M Starc was magical in Aus vs SL and WI and yet he turned out to be toothless in the Test Series in India.

    Undoubtedly JA will bowl several beauties in fav conditions but he won't be the only one capable of doing that nor would he be the one who would bowl the best or most beauties.

  • Sharky on May 25, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    Jimmy Anderson is the most skillful bowler, but Steyn is still the most dangerous bowler. I would hate to be an opening batsmen, who had to face a World XI team with Steyn from the one end and Anderson from the other end. If it isn't on a flat track in India, then it would be totally unfair to the opposition. On a green mamba track with cloud cover, they will be called a murderous gang-pair. But if some-one had to stick a gun to my head and orders that I can only pick one of them in my team, then I'll pick Steyn.

  • Paul on May 24, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    I think it is relative to the quality of batsmen that are around at the time. Since 2008, which is apparently when James Anderson has become such a great bowler, there has been probably two batsmen( Amla and Clarke) that have been the best in the world. Compared to who Glenn McGrath had to bowl at, Tendulkar, Lara, Yousaf, Inzy, Pietersen, i guess there is no comparison. As an Aussie fan I'm not going to say that Anderson is crap, because he isn't, but he's certainly not great, and Steyn is as skilled as Anderson, just 8-10 kph faster. In line with my previous argument, I think Allan Donald was better than Steyn. But isn't just personal opinion at the end of the day?

  • ra on May 23, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    Shan156 - no one is arrogant... and if you read all the comments they come from all over the world.

    I think everyone in general, is just tired of reading the constant "over hyped" articles about very average english players.

    Jimmy is good. not great. its a common theme in your team.

  • Harmon on May 23, 2013, 16:57 GMT

    @Shan156: I know it. For me and many like me Viru is one of the finest players of the last 10 years and when one sees that he was a reluctant opener then it becomes even more impressive. But we are digressing. Talking about JA, I have said it in the past too that I like seeing him bowl. I am not saying that he is poor or not skillful or not among the top bowlers in the world. But when I hear ppl making claims that JA is a proven wicket taker in ALL conditions and point to his recent bowling in India as if .... then I got to set it straight. I find it comical that these people claim they speak on facts yet the facts are 22W in 7T in India and 42W in 14 T in Asia. How is that a proof beats me.

    Had Zak been fitter then I would have said that perhaps he had a better claim when it came to skill. Zak had everything in greater quantity that JA had except fitness and the chance to play on more fav conditions.

    JA is someone who makes great use of conditions. That is skill too but that's it.

  • Shanmugam on May 23, 2013, 15:48 GMT

    @Harmony111, Sehwag would be considered a great player regardless of his overall average. His average against Eng. is mediocre but that doesn't take anything away from his greatness. Any player who can score 2 300s (and a 290+) anywhere in the world is a great. Also, Sehwag is one of those players, like KP, who can take the game away from the opposition in a session. The psychological impact on the opposition is more crucial than the runs. Take the Chennai test in 2008-2009 for example against Eng. Eng. set a stiff 4th innings target, the highest ever to be chased successfully in india, and Viru set off doing it on his own. Even though he was eventually dismissed for 80+, that innings set the tone for SRT and Yuvraj to capitalize and achieve the target. That X factor is gifted only to few players and Sehwag is one of them. I believe that judging a player only by his averages is foolish.

  • R on May 23, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    Just wondered which bit of .... ''David Saker has hailed James Anderson as "the most skilful bowler in the world" everyone seems to not understand... It is D Saker's view... who happens to be an aussie... No-one in their right mind wd suggest D Steyn is not the current best bowler...

  • Harmon on May 23, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    @Shan156: Some players who have great records in certain conditions are being labelled as proven-everywhere players and for some other players the proof required for being all-round players is extremely stiff. Viru is often said to be a FTB. However, he has 2 100s in Aus and avgs 46, surely good enough. Viru's avg IN Aus is sig more than Gooch's avg IN Aus and also overall avg yet Viru is said to be a FTB. I don't know about Lillee but would have the same argument for him too. If he did not do well in India then he too is a limited bowler who can do well only in certain conditions.

    Actually it is foolish to expect players to have the same record in good and bad conditions. A fast bowler won't usually take 7/30 on a flat track and you won't normally see a 200 on a green top. Sadly, for some this is seen but for Ind players this yardstick is not used. Viru still remains a FTB even if he scores 219 or a away 300 or the fastest 300 or 100 on debut in SA.

  • Dummy4 on May 23, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    Proteas supporter here. Anderson is a very good bowler, but steyn is better. Steyn gets his wickets because of his late swing and seam movement. He is accurate and because he can crank it up to 150km/h the batsmen don't move their feet so freely or confidently. His bouncer comes to you quicker as it is skidding towards the batsman. Added to this a good cricket mind makes him the most dangerous fast bowler. When he played in india he bowled a great spell taking 7 for with the ball reversing. His inswinger is not great but he is working on it to get it better.

    The difference between Australia and SA was in most cases Gilly. The game were not so one sided as it ended up to be. SA would have aus in trouble and gilly would score a 100 in no time.

  • Andrew on May 23, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    @David_1946 on (May 22, 2013, 6:55 GMT) - his tongue was (I think) firmly planted in his cheek! @5wombats on (May 22, 2013, 11:36 GMT) - yes, but is JA MORE skilled than Steyn? That is the issue most take up here. There aren't many who say "Steyn the best, Anderson is useless". They say Steyn is that far ahead of Anderson (AND THE REST), that it is embarrassing to compare. @Trickstar on (May 21, 2013, 18:29 GMT) - "...we are talking about Anderson because he's just taken his 300 wicket..." - actually we are talking about Anderson because the heading says "...most skilled bowler..." & that is also a direct quote form English management. You FAIL to see the arguement is NOT Steyn is great, Anderson crud. The arguement is Steyn is the BEST, is that far ahead of ALL the current bowlers, & Anderson is simply not AS good. Anderson is NOT the most skilled bowler in the world, that is Steyn. The article should be about WHETHER Anderson is the best of the REST!