Anderson's allround day to remember
As the Nottinghamshire gloom finally ended an enthralling day's Test cricket at Trent Bridge, James Anderson led England into the pavilion. Rapturous applause from a near-packed crowd was met with typical sheepish acknowledgment from Anderson, that most rare of sportsmen: humble, shy and modest. There was nothing modest or diffident about his performance today, however, hounding New Zealand with a consistent outswinger to pick up 6 for 42 in 15 memorable overs. He may not find it overly comfortable, but the spotlight was well and truly on him.
It wasn't just with the ball that Anderson shone. Earlier, his 28 provided dogged and entertaining support to Stuart Broad in a match-turning eighth-wicket stand of 76. Anderson, who came in as nightwatchman yesterday evening ahead of Ryan Sidebottom, is more often found lurking at No.10, with some justification too. Today, though, he coped admirably with New Zealand's bowlers - none of whom swung the ball nearly as prodigiously as he was to later - showing some of his more illustrious colleagues the benefits of moving his feet. Anderson the allrounder? It certainly has a ring to it, even if he himself responded more casually to his form with the bat.
"I've worked hard on my batting. Me and Broady [Stuart Broad] had a chat last night and said that if we can get somewhere near 300 maybe 320, then who knows," he said. "We took it slowly - took it in partnerships of 10 - and we managed to get to 360 somehow. I don't know how.
"I'm definitely on the right track," he said of his batting. "[My] first innings at Old Trafford was a bit of a dodgy innings, but when I have a dodgy innings I have a dodgy game. So if I can limit it [the poor innings] to every three, four or five games I'll definitely be on the right track."
It may be his most pointed character trait: unsure, reserved and diffident to the point of embarrassment. Yet Anderson need not, should not, be so hesitant on what can be comfortably regarded as his most authoritative day's Test cricket. He may lack the natural grace and ability of Broad with a bat in his hand, but his 28 was not the dour innings we associate with him, and its influence on the game could yet be hugely significant.
|With my natural angle, players tend to want to hit me to the leg-side when they see the angle, but then I get that late shape. I enjoy that - James Anderson on his swinging abilities|
Today's innings, to borrow his phrase, was not dodgy in the slightest. Going by his skewed but valid logic, he is already having a wonderful game, adding to his 28 with six wickets to deliver a lasting blow to New Zealand's fragile top-order. Aaron Redmond was his first, a fiercely straight yorker to pluck out the off stump, before Brendon McCullum was out-thought by an intelligent two-ball set-piece, the like of which we don't often associate with Anderson. McCullum never settled, swishing wildly at an orthodox outswinger, but Anderson went wider of the crease to bowl him with a near-unplayable delivery the next ball. The thinking bowler is altogether a more dangerous proposition, and Anderson ran through New Zealand's middle-order to pick up his fifth five-wicket haul, capping a memorable day.
"I bowl my best when the ball's swinging," he said. "We chatted before the game and said that we need to bowl a fuller length to get the wickets, and when it's swinging as well I tend to bowl a fuller length, so it was ideal for me. With my natural angle, players tend to want to hit me to the leg-side when they see the angle, but then I get that late shape. I enjoy that."
There is even the enticing prospect of him picking up all ten wickets tomorrow, a notion understandably flat-batted by him. "If I get eight or nine tomorrow I might start thinking about it. But it's a different day tomorrow, but hopefully the conditions will be the same and the ball will be swinging. You never know.
"It would be great to get all ten, but I'm not going to worry about it when I go to sleep tonight."
Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo