England v Pakistan, 1st npower Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day August 1, 2010

Strauss urges consistency after England triumph


In the end, resistance was brief and futile. With James Anderson unplayable and England's slip cordon on fire, Pakistan shed seven wickets in the morning session to crumble to a miserable 80 all out - eight runs fewer than the total for which they themselves had dispatched the Australians in their previous Test outing at Headingley last week. The net result was defeat by a massive 354 runs, the second-largest margin ever inflicted by an England team in Test history.

And yet, the overall impression was ever so slightly misleading. At times in the contest - most notably when Eoin Morgan was reprieved early in the first innings, and again when Matt Prior emerged at 72 for 5 second-time around, England were made to toil as hard as they have done for months. For that reason, their captain Andrew Strauss was able to take immense pleasure from a performance that was at times devastatingly skilful, but at the same time brimful of determination.

"We had to work hard, very hard, at stages of the game," said Strauss. "But the encouraging thing for me was we got through those tricky situations and came out the other side really well. Our bowling was outstanding throughout, as was our fielding, so there are a lot of things to pat ourselves on the back about. But I think we're also conscious that our overriding aim is to achieve consistency, and you don't do that in one game."

In actual fact, England have now won five Tests in a row, a sequence they've not matched since their 2004-05 zenith. However, with four consecutive wins against Bangladesh and now a thumping result against a batting line-up that lacks even the class of a Tamim Iqbal to bolster its potential, there's a limit to how excited England can dare to get about such form. Nevertheless, with Morgan, Prior and Anderson all excelling in their respective disciplines, it's fair to suggest that better opponents would have struggled to stay in the same contest.

"Against the best teams in their own conditions, we've still got some work to do, but Tests like this give me a lot of heart," said Strauss. "If you want to be a top quality Test team you are going to need guys to get you out of trouble at times, so that's encouraging. And you can say that Pakistan [batted] poorly, but I prefer to focus on the bowling. There's no better bowler in the world when it's swinging than Jimmy, and he was backed up very well by the other two [Stuart Broad and Steven Finn]."

Anderson's outstanding figures of 11 for 71 were his best figures in all first-class cricket, and included a wrecking-ball spell of 15-8-17-6 in the second innings. He of all people knows he is unlikely to be presented with such a tantalising combination of circumstances in every outing - tailor-made conditions, coupled with demoralised and clueless opponents - but given his reputation for on-off performances, the mere fact he was able to replicate his form from the first innings was significant. For all that he's renowned for an ability to cut through opposition batting line-ups, he had only ever claimed one previous ten-wicket haul in his first-class career.

"It was a fantastic feeling," said Anderson. "The one thing we've talked about as bowlers is trying to concentrate on it not swinging. Our main job as seam bowlers is to create pressure from both ends by bowling maidens and finding good areas consistently. When it's swinging it obviously helps me more than the other two, so we can bowl slightly more attackingly. But that's what our focus has been in our preparations.

"I managed to get some rhythm early on, and I got the rub of the green with the nicks and the catches in the slips, but that spell is up there because of the patience that I felt like I bowled with throughout both innings," he added. "I didn't try to get greedy and bowl the magic ball too much, so I was really happy with the way I performed."

Patience will have to be a major part of Anderson's armoury if he is to play a significant part in this winter's Ashes, when the ball is unlikely to respond to the conditions with anything approaching the same impact. And while the impending trip to Australia is largely a taboo subject for now, England have already declared their intentions to begin practicing with the Kookaburra ball as soon as the Pakistan series is out of the way.

"It's in the back of everyone's mind, but this week and next week we'll be focussing on Pakistan," said Anderson. "I think it's really, really important for the whole team to get some form in this series, because we've got 15 days of Test cricket left to go, so we've got to work really hard and build up some form and momentum before the Ashes."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • waqas on August 3, 2010, 17:52 GMT

    Great comments by simon-w and Georgouras, I almost stand converted. But here is my theory anyways. In my observation three factors contribute to the swing of a ball 1. Weight. The lighter a ball the more it swings. 2. Seam. A prouder seam causes more swing. 3. Gloss. A thicker coating helps the ball to swing longer. Just make the slightest of changes to the ball with these three factors and you have the 'special swing ball', no mysteries at all. There might be other factors too, but the point is they can be identified and it is possible to fill a box with the 'special balls' and another with normal balls. Regardless of how many wickets anybody took, it seemed clear to me that Pakistanis swung it less than the Englishmen and Aussies less than the Pakistanis at Leeds, the overhead conditions and the skill factors notwithstanding.

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2010, 9:34 GMT

    Dear cricscholar, I respect your opinion, however given that Pakistan get to choose the ball when they bowl, what makes them choose the "special ball" in the Australia game, and if it is knowledge given to them by England, then why the heck wouldn't they use it in the England game? I'm not entirely sure my eye is less discerning (as long as I am wearing my specs) however, I cannot allow an explanation to defy logic. Nor does your explanation account for the prodigious swing found by both Aamer and Asif against England.

    And as for Broad not being a big swinger of the ball, this is only because he bowls a foot or so shorter than Anderson and when it does swing, he still moves it, as seen when he demolished South Africa in Durban last summer and Australia at the Oval.

    Galileo had a good deal more than self-developed theory behind him when he declared that the universe did not revolve around the Earth. A small matter of evidence provided by Jupiter's moons, I believe.

  • Simon on August 3, 2010, 7:31 GMT

    @cricscholar - yeah, that's a little far-fetched, and it does have the hallmarks of a classic conspiracy theory (a good grounding in spuriousness with a dash of unfalsifiability thrown in). The thing is that no-one properly understands exactly what makes certain balls swing in certain conditions. There's a certain amount of empirical evidence available (everyone knows about the contributory effects of shine and overcast conditions, and that the Duke swings more than the Kookaburra, etc. - likewise, Trent Bridge has a stronger reputation for swing than Headingly), but no-one can really explain it thoroughly. I happen to believe that Anderson probably is the best swing bowler in the world right now, with Asif and Aamer just behind, but since they never bowl in the same innings (and therefore with exactly the same ball and conditions) you can always make that kind of argument. To suggest a conspiracy, though, is surely going to far.

  • waqas on August 2, 2010, 19:12 GMT

    Dear Georgouras, Hilfenhaus certainly swung it but Aamer and Asif ' hooped it around corners' in that innings and similarly at Trent Bridge Asif and Aamer merely swung it while Anderson and even Broad, who is not a big swinger, were making the ball talk in the air. It is that additional 2 to 4 inches of swing that made those spells totally unplayable. Now, it has been admitted by almost all English commentators that some Duke balls swing more than the others, so is it too much to believe that someone would study the balls and recognize which are the 'special balls'? And having done that to use them to their advantage 'selectively'? One hopes it would not be true but too many signs are pointing to it. It may sound like a conspiracy theory to the less dscerning eye, the same way as Socrates seemed like a conspirer to Anytus and Meletus or Galileo to the orthodox Church. Coming tests will throw more light on this issue.

  • Dummy4 on August 2, 2010, 11:57 GMT

    @Thomas and @Brian - a game in which Harbhajan got Ricky Ponting in both innings - for 6 and 0. Australia's bowling card in India's second innings is pretty hilarious, with Ponting, Langer, Hayden and Slater all getting a trundle. They used 9 bowlers - I wonder if that's a record (at least in the modern era)?

    Match scorecard: http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63920.html

  • Dummy4 on August 2, 2010, 11:43 GMT

    And I suppose cricscholar also propounds the conspiracy theories that the earth is flat, the moon landing was staged at NASA and Darwin was wrong. Australia did swing the ball, or at least Hilfenhaus did. Johnson lost his swing a while back, when he tried to get too fancy, and Gul was pretty rubbish in the Australia series, not swinging the ball one bit. Thing is, if there's a Duke ball and some cloud cover, then Jimmy Anderson's the best man to get a ball to talk. And Asif and Aamer are class acts as well - I remember seeing them ripping through England's batting line up on the second morning, did they perhaps sneak in and pick the special ball? And, incidentally, is it marked? Does it say "Duke - Special Ball" in fancy gold lettering? I'm very curious.

  • Dummy4 on August 2, 2010, 9:46 GMT

    Hey Brian. Thanks for getting back to me on the question I had asked. I must say I'm amazed at your answer. That must've been a really good test match, especially given the fightback India made in their second innings to bounce back against a very tough Australian side at that time. Quality stuff!

    I wonder if there are any others? It must be a freakishly rare result.

  • Ross on August 2, 2010, 9:00 GMT

    England's main strength right now is stability. Considering it is not much more than a year since they had their own 'Pakistan moment' - captain and coach sacked on the same day - great credit must go to the two Andys, Strauss and Flower, for bringing a professional calmness to proceedings. They have a settled side that extends to a squad. Sidebottom, Bresnan, Shazad as seam cover; Panesaar and Rashid in the spin department with Bell and Bopara keeping the top six on their toes. There's any number of reserve keepers, it's only at opener, where Cook is clearly below par, that there is no obvious replacement. England's current ranking, just outside the four challenging at the top, is about right just now. With series against Australia, Sri Lanka and India coming up in the next twelve months, the opportunity is there for this team to really make their mark in world cricket.

  • steve on August 2, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    Every time Miller does an article on England, the words "Australia" and "Ashes" are laced through most paragraphs. You do realise it starts at the end of November don't you?

  • John on August 2, 2010, 4:39 GMT

    Dream on, popcorn. Australia lost to this same Pakistan side just last week. If club teams are stronger than Pakistan, what does that make Australia? The Aussies are on the way down, England are on the way up. It's time England won the Ashes in Australia and this is the Winter it's going to happen.

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