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April 6, 2014
Nottinghamshire 270 for 9 (Patel 93, Hales 61, Anderson 5-54) vs Lancashire
Those supporters frustrated with England's performances of late - and there are many - are sometimes liable to suggest throwing away most of the team in the search for quick-fix solutions.
But whatever changes the selectors make in the coming weeks, it seems most unlikely they will dispense with James Anderson. Here, under the watchful eye of national selector James Whitaker, Anderson expertly utilised helpful conditions to provide a reminder, if any was required, of his value. For better or worse, there is no bowler in England anywhere near his class. He will surely remain a foundation stone of any rebuilding operation.
Here, gaining substantial seam movement, he claimed five of the Nottinghamshire top eight as victims including three international players. It was Anderson's seventh five-wicket haul in first-class games at Trent Bridge and his third in successive innings following his heroics here in the first Test of the Investec Ashes last July. Bearing in mind that he has only played eight first-class games at the ground, that is a pretty phenomenal record.
True, Anderson does not have the pace of Mitchell Johnson or the potency of Dale Steyn. But in conditions like these - on a damp, green pitches offering substantial seam movement - he is as effective as anyone. And, if he was not asked to carry such a heavy burden - no seamer from another country bowled more overs in international cricket between the Ashes of 2010-11 and the Ashes of 2013-14 than Anderson - he might prove even more effective.
The last time Anderson appeared for England, he was struggling with a cracked rib sustained when facing Peter Siddle in the Adelaide Test. Typically, Anderson did not moan, or even let on. Indeed, he conceded a record 28 runs from a Test over in the next game - at Perth - when Stuart Broad was forced off the field with a sore foot and the burden of bowling fell, once again, to him.
But now, after a disappointing Ashes and with the England team in a transitional phase, Anderson is among the group of established Test players obliged to prove themselves anew.
"No-one can feel safe after the winter we've had," Anderson said at the close of play. "Most centrally-contracted players have four of five Championship games now and I see it as an opportunity to show what I can do. And I love playing here."
Although he started gently, he was back up to somewhere approaching full pace by his fourth of fifth over. He soon had Phil Jaques caught in the slips fencing at one angled across him that bounced a little more than expected, before Michael Lumb, attempting to leave outside off stump, played on and Riki Wessels' decent resistance was ended when he played across a full, straight ball.
That Lancashire were not able to take advantage of Anderson's haul was due to four factors: their own less than wonderful fielding - they dropped five or six chances depending how charitable you feel towards fielders on a chilly day during which the floodlights were kept on throughout - some impatient bowling that resulted in a surfeit of short balls and, most of all, the admirable batting of Samit Patel and Alex Hales.
Disappointment might yet bring opportunity for Hales and Patel. The Nottinghamshire pair had hoped to be off to the IPL in the coming weeks but, after the county insisted on a base price of £250,000 that put off potential franchises, they instead find themselves battling in very different conditions in England.
On the basis of this performance, though, the experience may do them good. While neither man has a reputation for the patience required to prosper in such conditions, here they were watchful and compact, combating the movement by playing straight, refusing to push for the ball and, after patient starts, prospering when conditions eased against the older ball.
Patel, who took 116 deliveries to reach his 50 but brought it up with a hooked six off Wayne White, admitted he demonstrated "the patience that I've lacked at times in my career" and conceded he had been "guilty of getting 30s and 40s" and failing to convert his strong starts at times in recent seasons. He was beaten several times and dropped twice, on 71 and 92, but this was a mature innings worth many more in easier conditions.
Had James Taylor not suffered a side strain on the club's pre-season trip to Barbados, Hales would not have been included in the team here. As it was, after a chastening 2013 in which he scored only 251 Championship runs in 18 innings, he registered his highest first-class score since August 2012 - albeit that his 50 came up with a missed chance to Paul Horton at slip - and showed that his new position - No. 6 - may be more suited to his attractive but somewhat loose style. His timing of the ball through the covers, on front and back foot, was simply beautiful.
While both men fell before the close, Patel caught down the leg side as he attempted to glance and Hales guilty of pushing at one that left him, they had earned their side more than a useful platform in the game. Anything over 250 may prove highly competitive.
But if Notts are to take advantage, they will have to do so without a couple of bowlers who might have proved highly valuable in such conditions. Siddle will arrive later in the week having experienced problems obtaining a visa and Andre Adams is absent having suffered a calf strain. Lancashire, meanwhile, are without Glen Chapple, who has a minor hamstring strain, and Jos Buttler, who has been rested following his winter exertions.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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