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After a hard slog on a lifeless wicket and similarly docile conditions expected at Lord's, England may recall the Lancashire spinner to inject a bit of bite into their bowling attack
George Dobell at Trent Bridge
July 12, 2014
'Root told me to milk it' - Anderson
Thomas Hardy probably was not thinking of the Trent Bridge pitch when he wrote that "happiness is but a mere episode in the general drama of pain" but it is a line that seems appropriate nevertheless.
A match that has, at times, looked close to sinking into a persistent vegetative state was briefly roused from its stupor by the joyous partnership between James Anderson and Joe Root. For the second time in 367 days, Trent Bridge witnessed a new world record tenth-wicket stand. Ashton Agar's place in history has already been largely obscured.
Not only has this Test given us a world record, two century stands for the 10th wicket for the first time and a record score by an England No. 11, but it also provided Anderson with his maiden first-class 50.
He later admitted he was not quite sure how to acknowledge the applause upon reaching the milestone. While Joe Root urged him to "milk it," Anderson somewhat sheepishly raised his bat. "I've seen people point their bat at the dressing room, so I did that," he said afterwards.
"I knew that if I was ever going to get 50, it would be on a wicket like this," Anderson admitted. "The short ball wasn't that dangerous.
"We just wanted to eat into the time left in the game and chip away at their lead. We knew it would be tiring for their bowlers to keep banging the ball in on a turgid pitch. It's very hard to get people out on that pitch if they play straight."
While this was all new territory for Anderson - he once made 49 as an opening batsman for Burnley against Todmorden - he has contributed with the bat previously for England. Without his rear-guard effort at Cardiff in 2009 - he and Monty Panesar survived the final 69 balls to secure a draw - England might not have won back the Ashes and, even as recently as the previous Test at Headingley, he was distraught after coming within two deliveries of saving the game after 81 minutes of defiance.
"Not a lot is expected of me," Anderson said. "My batting isn't the reason I'm selected. But I've had a few triumphs and I work hard at it. After the disappointment at Leeds, it has made me cherish this all the more."
There are several possible conclusions from such a freak stand and such a freak match. The first might be that neither side has the potent bowling attack it might like, though it would be harsh to judge anyone on this lifeless track. Even the greats, the likes of Shane Warne, Richard Hadlee, Wasim Akram or Malcolm Marshall, would have struggled.
It might be used to criticise the captains, too. And while it is true that India appeared to persist with the short-ball long after it had become clear that it would not work - and long after the full ball had accounted for most of England's top-order - such criticism is largely facile. This was a surface that rendered most plans futile. Anderson did, for a while, look suspect against Ishant Sharma and, as the ball softened, there was little swing and no seam or spin to help the bowlers.
Most of all, it should lead to the conclusion that this is a wretched cricket pitch. It rewards neither good strokeplay nor skilful bowling. It rewards attrition, discipline and patience. Such qualities will always have a place in Test cricket, but if the game favours them more than it does flair and skill, it will face an uphill challenge to persuade spectators to spend £70 on tickets.
It should lead to some reflection on the absurdity of a sport that takes the time to legislate against spectators bringing branded water to global events or the size of advertising logos on the back of players' bats but seems unable to solve an issue as fundamental as the playing surface.
The partnership made the game safe, but hard work remains for England. With three days between Tests, India may well be persuaded to keep England in the field for most of the final day and only consider a declaration in the last hour with a view to testing Alastair Cook's poor run of form.
In an effort to inject a bit of bite into the bowling attack, Simon Kerrigan will be called into the 14-man England squad for the second Investec Test which starts at Lord's on Thursday and will be named at stumps on Sunday.
Kerrigan, the 25-year-old Lancashire left-arm spinner, made his Test debut at The Oval last year but was dropped after bowling eight nervous overs. He remains the brightest long-term spin prospect in the county game and, at his best, bowls with the pace and aggression to sustain a long career at this level. But whether recalling him for a Test at Lord's - where the pitch is again expected to provide precious little assistance to bowlers of any description - will do his rehabilitation any favours remains to be seen. But if England are looking for an experienced, short-term, reliable and expendable spin option, they might consider the likes of Gareth Batty.
There might also be a case for a new wicketkeeper. It would be harsh to drop Matt Prior after a match in which he was generally kept well in desperately testing conditions, in which he was incorrectly given out and after a career in which he has served England so well but, with his body creaking, his keeping appears to have deteriorated. While none of the chances he has missed in this game - Dhoni on 50 in the first innings and Mural Vijay on 0 and 23 in the second - compare to the simple effort he missed at Headingley off Kumar Sangakkara, the fact is that on such benign surfaces, the value of every chance is increased.
The England camp insist he will be fine to keep on the final day, but the sight of him leaving the ground in a sling due to a sore hand underlined the chastened state in which he currently finds himself.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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