England v Pakistan, 4th npower Test, Lord's August 25, 2010

Anderson's blue-sky thinking


James Anderson believes that his final-day showing at The Oval, in which he produced a fast and threatening display under cloudless skies and with a 25-over old ball, will help to convince the doubters that he has what it takes to succeed in adverse conditions in Australia this winter. Although England went on to lose the match by four wickets, Anderson's tenacity in defending a meagre target of 148 was particularly timely as the team's thoughts begin to turn to the Ashes in November.

Anderson, 28, has been the pick of England's bowlers this summer, claiming 29 wickets in five Tests against Bangladesh and Pakistan, including a career-best haul of 11 for 71 in the first Test against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last month. But whereas his prodigious ability to make the ball swing has been assisted by overcast conditions for much of the summer, it wasn't until the sun came out at The Oval that he was forced to rely on his less celebrated traits of stamina and accuracy. In tandem with Graeme Swann, England made Pakistan battle for every run as they stretched a seemingly routine run-chase well into the afternoon session.

"There was a period there when they were on 16 to win for quite a few overs, and we all believed we could cause an upset," Anderson told Cricinfo's Switch Hit podcast. "Unfortunately it didn't happen for us, but we gave it everything we could that day, and to be honest we probably didn't have enough runs to defend. But I'm delighted with the way it's gone for me this summer. I've made use of some helpful conditions along the way, but also when the ball hasn't been swinging, like at The Oval, I've still done quite well."

Andrew Strauss's tactics in that final innings came under some fire as Anderson was initially asked to bowl in the channel outside off stump to stymie Pakistan's flow of runs. But a magnificent outswinging yorker to the well-set Mohammad Yousuf signalled a change of emphasis, and also highlighted Anderson's greater reliability as an attacking bowler who can also be trusted to keep a cap on the scoring rate - as demonstrated by a current series economy rate of 2.30, the lowest of any of the specialist quick bowlers on either side.

Anderson attributes that greater reliability to two factors - an increased sense of responsibility within the bowling unit, a process that began back at Wellington in March 2008 when he took over from Matthew Hoggard as the leader of England's attack, and a return to the idiosyncratic, but undeniably effective, bowling action that served him so well as a rookie swing bowler at the start of his international career, but which was more or less coached out of him during his years in the wilderness between 2004 and 2006.

"Keeping the ball pitched up, and obviously straight, is a basic of bowling, but it's obviously a key thing for anyone who plays cricket," said Anderson. "I'm really trying to get rid of any free scoring shots for the batsman, especially that one four-ball in an over, and in the last few years, certainly since Peter Moores took over the job of England coach, he instilled a lot of confidence in me and gave me some extra responsibility.

"Since I suffered a stress fracture in 2006, I went back to near enough the action I started with as a 16 year old," he added. "I think from then, I've gone on from strength to strength. My bowling's improved, and is continually improving, and I've started to become a bit more consistent which is what I've been searching for for a number of years, and which every bowler strives for. I'm just really enjoying playing at the moment, I feel pretty confident with it, and the main thing for me at the minute is staying fit, keeping strong and bowling well."

The doubts will continue to linger, however, until Anderson produces a similarly reliable display in Australia this winter, a country in which he claimed five wickets at a costly 82.60 in the 2006-07 Ashes. Under the guidance of their new bowling coach, David Saker, whose greatest emphasis is on tactics rather than techniques, England have already begun practising with a Kookaburra ball to attune themselves mentally to the task that awaits them this winter, but Anderson is adamant that the challenge should not be overstated.

"I've bowled six balls this summer with a Kookaburra, just to see how it held up in English conditions, nothing more than that," he said. "We've gone to plenty other countries in the past and won using the Kookaburra so it's not a big deal, and not something we're going to worry about. I've bowled well in plenty of games where the ball hasn't swung - it's just a matter of doing it on a consistent basis to prove to people that I can do it. I know I can do it, but I've just got to become consistent."

James Anderson works with ASICS Smarter Cricket. For expert coaching videos visit www.asics.co.uk/cricket

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lava_Ind on August 27, 2010, 9:32 GMT

    Anderson is a good bowler, but not a great one. Neither do any of the Australian ones. atleast England have a world class spinner in the rank Swann and the Aussies have WHO???.

    Watchout Aussies. I am a neutral person here it looks like Aussies have a ageing side which has lost its confidence and on the other side an Englsh side which is thriving on its recent success.

    Aussies Beware...

  • boris6491 on August 27, 2010, 8:27 GMT

    I agree with Mr.Moody in that Anderson is often propped up in image to be better than he truly is. In swinging conditions, he would certainly be a bowler of choice. His record overseas though, outside of those supportive conditions in England, speak for itself. In all honestly and to be fair, his figures are not impressive, not least of all in Australia where he has copped a lot of stick. I just don't feel he has the weapons or tools to survive in conditions outside of his comfort zone regardless of what he says. That is what made Glenn McGrath such a great pace bowler. England will need him to bowl well but I think that we are seeing some overconfidence from him and that will be treated with serious disdain against the Australians.

  • feevish on August 26, 2010, 19:26 GMT

    He is a great bowler and he is gonna rock in Australia. Cricket is not about winning these days. Its about fighting. No one is looking for results. A 100 in the losing cause is appreciated in the same way as a winning ton. So as long as he fights and tries to take wickets he is going to be successful.

  • Zahidsaltin on August 26, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    HAHAHA, what a self belief. Last day showing?? Only thing you did was to bowl one meter out side off so that nothing was scored on that negative bowling with the plan that swan should have enough to bowl on. Secondly, do you really think bowling to Azhar Ali, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Amir is the same as bowling to Hussy n co. And by the way how many wickets did you take at Oval? and at what average. 4 for 117 thats 30 runs per wicket in a low scoring match against one of the worst batting line up on test arena. You are no kapil Dev manl

  • dummy4fb on August 26, 2010, 18:47 GMT

    As a Pakistani cricket follower I've been following him closely in the ongoing series, and believe it or not, I was a fan of his before he was even worth talking about for English fans, something about his action and potential has always impressed me, and his recent massive improvances only confirm it. Even though the fact that the Pakistani batting lineup he demolished was pretty weak, especially before Yusuf's arrival, he still bowled good enough, and bare in mind, moving the ball around makes it harder to play for ANY batsman in the world. All he needs to do is work on his swing with the old ball in conditions which don't necessarily favour fast bowling and he'll be ready to thrash Australia. After all, Aussie bowlers at the moment aren't any high and mighty either.

  • Fahii on August 26, 2010, 18:23 GMT

    James Anderson is not a very good bowler although he has a good series against Pakistan.....but Pakistan batting line up is strugling everywhere.....he's good only in seaming tracks.....& Aus has not as much seaming tracks as Eng has. Only swan ll be the main threat for Aus.....Eng gona loose 5-0 in aussies unless their batting line up dont click there

  • dummy4fb on August 26, 2010, 17:57 GMT

    well no question that he is a good bowler... but he is nowhere near world class... while players like muhammad asif are world class in far shorter careers than that of anderson...

    i have no doubt that he will be a good bowler in england but broad will do better due to his height.... and pakistan can gift wickets to even zimbabwe(no offense to the minnows)... bowling in the right area is what is needed against pakistan... and even if you don't still you can get wickets against them... he is not that good...

  • r1m2 on August 26, 2010, 17:52 GMT

    We seem to always do this. We talk up Anderson just after his amazing and consistent performance against lesser teams. And then we talk him down or find an excuse for why he sucks so much against Australia, South Africa, India, i.e. any teams with some degree of batting ability. He's the typical work horse English swing bowler, who is really not good when it does not swing, or when the batsman know a thing or two about batting in tests. Can we stop talking him up so much after his "good" performance against a feeble batting line up like that of Pakistan? The last time he was considered great, was when he was decimating West Indies' feeble batting lineup at home. Whatever...

  • K.A.K on August 26, 2010, 16:13 GMT

    Rain-hit game ruins the day...

    ICC/ ECB should consider Retractable Roof or doomed stadiums :) or in case of bad weather, fly both the teams to another stadium within 1-2 hours flight distance to continue to game and broadcast it on very large screens / halogram at the original stadium.

  • Itchy on August 26, 2010, 12:04 GMT

    No chance of Anderson being any good in Australia later this year - he proved it in 06/07 and he will confirm it soon enough. Our wickets don't seam and swing like English conditions (save for Session 1 in Brisbane) and we use the Kookaburra ball not the Duke.

    I'm predicting that none of the English pace/seam attack will do much in the Ashes and England will rely heavily on Swann and their batting to not lose tests.

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