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May 29, 2010
In sunny conditions on Friday, England's bowlers toiled for the best part of two sessions and managed just one wicket between them; 24 hours later, with grey skies camped overhead, they slotted back into command with five for 65 in 28.5 overs. And had the light held up for as little as half an hour longer, they might well have had time to enforce the follow-on as well, given how dicey survival was proving against the new ball. It's an easy game when you get on a roll.
And yet, the manner in which England regrouped couldn't fully atone for their failings in the first half of the Bangladesh innings. At least, that was James Anderson's verdict as he reflected on a day in which he claimed two important wickets, but was once again upstaged by a man on home debut who showed just how it should be done. Steven Finn's nerveless excellence was the catalyst for the comeback, and his fast-bowling colleagues are aware of the debt they owe him.
"He was brilliant today, and last night he was fantastic too," said Anderson. "He's got a cool head, he knows exactly what he's trying to do - he's very impressive. In the past Stuart Broad's been useful as well - he has a bit of height and bounce and is looking to be quite aggressive. Bres [Tim Bresnan] and I are trying to swing it - and with him being more aggressive at the batsman, it works quite well."
Both Anderson and Bresnan produced a succession of unplayable deliveries in the course of their truncated day's work - with Anderson's outswinger to Jahurul Islam being the pick of the bunch. But for sheer, sustained, six-ball-an-over menace, neither could compete with the lanky line-and-length being pinged down from the Pavilion End.
Finn's finest delivery was his new-ball nipbacker to bowl Mushfiqur Rahim in the gloaming. The pace, subtle movement, and bail-trimming accuracy was reminiscent of the great Glenn McGrath, who lorded it over Lord's on three consecutive visits in 1997, 2001 and 2005, and finished with his name on the honours board on each and every occasion. With overnight figures of 4 for 75, Finn is now odds-on to take his place on the wall as well.
When asked if Finn reminded him of McGrath, Anderson opted for a comparison slightly closer to home, and chose the man who is currently director of cricket at Finn's county, Middlesex. "I actually said to him he reminded me of Angus Fraser, but slightly quicker. But it's the same principle [as McGrath], a very strong action and a lot of straight lines and hits the deck hard."
If Anderson seemed ill at ease in singing the praises of his new team-mate, then it merely underlined the sudden precariousness of his position. Having missed the tour of Bangladesh through injury, Anderson then sat on the sidelines throughout the World Twenty20 - a harsh snub, maybe, but one that was amply justified in hindsight. After leading the attack in 2009, he's become just another squad bowler a year later, and he knows he needs to raise his game to reclaim his top-dog status.
"Last night we spoke as a group, the three bowlers and the two Andys [Flower and Strauss], just discussing what we needed to do to improve," he said. "It was pretty obvious - and we all knew - that we didn't bowl very well yesterday. We were just missing something. For me, maybe even Bres, who's not bowled a great deal in the longer form of the game recently, it's just a bit of rustiness.
"We improved on yesterday but were still not quite there," he added. "From a personal point of view, I felt like I'm bowling a bit too short. We did make good use of the conditions, but I think we can still improve further, and certainly today I should have bowled a bit fuller. Yesterday we weren't very accurate or consistent. Today we were a little bit better but can still be more so."
In terms of the match situation, England are now right back in control, despite having lost more than two sessions to the rain. The likelihood of enforcing the follow-on is back on the agenda, with England unlikely to waste time batting again if they can possibly avoid it. "We've only got 70 runs to play with, so we've got to bowl really well in the morning and hope for a full day's play," said Anderson.
For Junaid Siddique, who top-scored for Bangladesh with a well-crafted 58 before falling to a flyer from Finn, the goal of batting out for a draw is still very much the team's aim. "It might be a little bit difficult but I think we can play," he said. "There were a lot of balls we could have easily left. We are improving day by day and we will see on the next day what happens. Let's see tomorrow, and see how many runs we can get and if we can save the follow-on."
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