India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 1st day December 5, 2012

Anderson rewarded in year of toil

No fast bowler has sent down more overs than James Anderson in 2012 and in Kolkata at the start of the third Test he got the rewards his efforts deserved.

This has not been the best of years for England. Defeated in seven Tests, they have lost their No.1 ranking, their proud home record and suffered a damaging dressing room fall-out. The careers of players who seemed destined for sustained success have stalled and the seam attack that looked so potent against Australia and India has become jaded.

Yet, through it all, James Anderson has remained a beacon of reliability. He has played on some unforgiving wickets this year and has also suffered far more than his share of dropped catches, but he has carried the burden of leading the attack with unflinching stoicism. Fit, willing and consistent, he has missed only one Test when he was rested, against his will, for the game against West Indies at Edgbaston.

Perhaps, on the flattest of wickets with no help from swing, he now looks tidy rather than threatening, but he showed once again at Eden Gardens that, given any help at all, he remains a fine performer.

Of seam bowlers, only Vernon Philander has taken more Test wickets (43 to Anderson's 41) this year, but no seamer has come anywhere near Anderson's work-rate of 511.4 overs in 2012. Indeed, Anderson has bowled nearly 100 overs more than the next busiest seamer this year. He will wish that fewer overs had been necessary but, in a struggling team, he has been a rock.

He could have been forgiven for a sinking feeling when his captain, Alastair Cook, once again lost an important toss - it is the fifth time in his five Tests as captain that he has lost the toss - and he was sentenced to another day in the field with the pitch at its best. In a two-man seam attack, his team needed him more than ever.

He responded with a magnificent performance. Forget the statistics - 3 for 68 does him little justice - this was as good as display of bowling as Anderson has produced since the Ashes. On a slow, low surface, he found swing, both conventional and reverse, a little movement off the seam and, at times, bowled with more pace than the disappointing Steven Finn. Five of the 12 fours he conceded went behind square on the off side and was unfortunate not to have won an lbw decision against Yuvraj Singh before he had scored.

The difference in Kolkata, Anderson reasoned, was simply that the ball moved. "The new ball swung in this game which hasn't done in the last two games," Anderson said. "And I think it will keep going for the whole match. The early start probably helps with all the dew around. This pitch was perfect for reverse swing - it is very abrasive - so I enjoyed it."

This was a polished performance by England. While Finn, rusty and anxious, and Graeme Swann, rumoured to be unwell, could not quite sustain Anderson's pressure, Monty Panesar compensated with 35 tight overs - a remarkable contribution on the first day of a Test - and again shared the second new ball.

England also caught several sharp catches - something they have rarely done of late - and maintained the standards with the ball and in the field even when luck turned against them. Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and, in particular, Yuvraj all enjoyed some fortune in the early stages of their innings.

As several Indian batsmen contributed to their own downfall, only Anderson's victims received excellent deliveries. Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, again tied down by tight bowling (his last 92 balls against England have now generated 32 runs and three dismissals) pushed at good ones on off stump that left them, while R Ashwin was beaten by one that swung back between bat and pad.

Anderson has now dismissed Tendulkar eight times in Test cricket. No-one has done it more.

"I'll probably think about that more when I retire," Anderson said, before adding with a smile "and tell everyone I meet that it happened. That was a crucial wicket for us. It looked like he was set. He was scratchy early on, but when he is set he can be dangerous."

There were few other chances. Ashwin, stuck on his heels when his captain called him for a sharp run, should have been run out had Finn, at mid-on, not missed a simple pick-up and throw, but generally this was as solid a team performance in the field as England have managed this year.

That England were unable to take greater advantage was almost entirely due to the determination of Tendulkar. Watching him at this stage of his career is not unlike watching George Foreman who, aged 45, came out of retirement to reclaim boxing's heavyweight title of the world. The reflexes may have waned, but the experience remains and, crucially, Tendulkar refused to give his wicket away. His young colleagues may not be able to emulate his talent, but they should strive to emulate his desire. It was what set him above them in this innings.

Gambhir described facing Anderson as "very difficult" with the ball "reversing and reversing that big." The key, according to Gambhir, was Anderson's ability to mask the ball with his left hand as he runs in, so the batsman cannot anticipate which way it will swing. "Finn gave a lot of loose deliveries," Gambhir said, "but Anderson bowled well."

Bearing in mind where Anderson learned that skill, however, and England may face some tricky moments of their own later in the match. "On the last tour here, Zaheer Khan did a lot," Anderson said. "That is when I started practising it and it has proved to be a good skill."

"Zaheer is a master of reverse-swing," Gambhir added. "So if he gets going it's going to be very difficult for England. It's an even contest. The wicket has something for everyone."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • VINODK on December 6, 2012, 6:30 GMT

    I think some fellow Indians are getting carried away with their own hype. Matt Prior is definitely not a walking wicket- he's one of the better players of spin in their team plus on the evidence so far Compton also seems pretty competent. Anderson may be not a great bowler but give him credit for bowling well yesterday. We have enough and more passengers in our own team without having to mock the English

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    Harsh on Finn George, "dissapointing ?" were u expecting him to run through the order? He is only 23 coupled with how flat of a deck it is..He is a wicket taker but he goes for runs granted..He had a couple of good spells..I hope they keep Stuart out of the side and keep developing Finn..I would say he is the best of the young promising fast bowlers , Cummins, Starc , Pattinson, Yadav,De Lange

  • Geoffrey on December 6, 2012, 5:47 GMT

    Cpt.Meanster- Anderson will be good enough to wreck a bog average Aussie side next ashes.

  • John on December 6, 2012, 3:11 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster on (December 06 2012, 00:02 AM GMT), a commenter who routinely claims to hate Test cricket and love T20 and then continues to post opinions on Test matches will never get my respect. Anderson's record speaks for itself. He's not the greatest bowler who ever lived but if you really think that he's an average domestic bowler then you simply reveal your lack of knowledge, while if you don't believe that then you just look foolish for posting it.

  • Mike on December 6, 2012, 2:46 GMT

    Oh and re. Anderson 278 wkts @ 30 may not be great but it is very good. He'd walk into the Indian side for sure and probably any side other than the Saffers. We also just need the selectors to stick with Finn as he has over 50 wkts @ 28 with sure signs that he will improve on that. Lets face it, most honest Indian fans will be concerned about their chances of winning this Test and the series. Pretty poor for a one sport nation of 1.2 billion people ! Stil, I'ml not gonna get ahead of myself but I am quietly confident of us at least drawing the series. The only downside in this particular game is us having to bat last, so it's vital we get at least a 75 run lead and bowl well in both the last part of the Injun 1st innings and also the 2nd innings. But for me, England are slight favs from here and all the pressure is on India which is another advantage. They have already lost the chance of proper 'revenge' as they can't give us back the 4-0 hammering they got on our 'greentops' lmao !!

  • Mike on December 6, 2012, 2:28 GMT

    @cptmeanster - So Prior is a walking wicket ? Strange how he almost scored a century in the 1st Test then ! Also Compton has shown he is prepared to fight and has put on 50+ and 100+ stands with Cook. Also Trott CAN play spin and is a good player just in poor form likewise Bell. I'm not sure this pitch is a minefield either. If India get bowled out for less than 315 then I'd rightly expect England to be in a good position. But yes fair point if Cook AND KP go cheaply then I will be nervous about us getting a lead. The good thing though is that so long as Dhoni doesn't blitz 60+ runs there is very little batting left. So overall if we restrict the Inuns to under 315 we will be favs imo. Was interesting to hear Dravid say that the best day to bat is on day 2, so from an England perspective it is vital we don't let the last 3 wkts put on 100-125. I would be surprised if that happened though as we will have fresh bowlers and pretty much a new ball today. Come on ENGLAND !

  • Jay on December 6, 2012, 0:02 GMT

    An AVERAGE county trundler will NEVER get my respects. I don't care how good this guy has bowled but he's a one off, 'once in a blue moon' bowler. ONLY Finn gets my thumbs up among the England quicks.

  • Jay on December 6, 2012, 0:01 GMT

    @phoenixsteve: I still DO NOT think England are in a winning position. This pitch is NOT Mumbai. I expect the Indian bowling to dismantle the England batting within 300 on this surface. Barring Cook and KP, the rest are walking wickets. If India can get rid of Cook and KP cheaply, the rest will collapse quicker than a house of cards. COME ON INDIA !!!

  • Alistair on December 5, 2012, 23:45 GMT

    @ bestbuddy - I think you'll find that Philander has taken 16 wickets at 30 in his last 5 tests overseas against respectable opposition (England not playing very well, and Australia playing above their current ability). I don't think there has been a better fast bowler in the world than Steyn for several years, but Philander is unproven after 12 tests (51 wkts in his first 7 then 16 in the next 5 makes that clear) and is certainly no better than Jimmy Anderson. Perhaps some more respect is due. And a bit more thought, as liz1558 has pointed out, about where these players have bowled their overs.

  • Jon on December 5, 2012, 22:20 GMT

    In a quick response to SevereCritic I agree, but want to add that occasionally a 'remodelled' action can have devastating results - the Troy Cooley re-modelled Anderson was nowhere near as effective (and was not at all popular with Duncan Fletcher) as the tyro Anderson; nor the vintage Anderson who'd returned to his previous natural action. Much as Cooley had some excellent results i/c England's bowling attack in 2005, there were as many errors and problems caused in my opinion. Wonder if the injury problems in the Australian bowling line-up have their roots in Cooley's tenure as bowling coach down under?

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