Heralding a new era
To all intents and purposes, England's attack for this match was as green as the Lord's outfield in this most drenched of summers. Matthew Hoggard's withdrawal on the eve of the Test meant that the last remaining link with their famous five-man attack from 2005 had been broken, and not since the fifth Test against Australia in 2001 had Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison all been missing from the same team-sheet.
But to watch James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom in harness during India's first innings, with splice-trembling support from the richly promising Chris Tremlett, was to be reminded that every fond farewell heralds a new beginning. England may have boasted a total of 23 caps in their seam attack, plus 18 more from Monty Panesar, but they nervelessly bridged the experience gap, routing the world's most revered batting line-up inside the life span of one new ball.
"That's the best I've bowled for a while, and the best-ever in an England shirt," said Anderson, whose figures of 5 for 42 propelled him onto the honours board for the second time in just three Test visits to Lord's. "I'm really pleased with how it's coming out, and I'm really happy with the way I bowled all the way through the innings. We stuck to our plans and Chris and Ryan bowled really well. On another day it could have been one of them getting a five-for."
It was a performance of stunning totality from England's quick bowlers. They were sharp, aggressive, accurate and unrelenting - everything, in fact, that their predecessors had failed to be throughout a lacklustre series win against West Indies. On that occasion, England owed every shred of their momentum in the field to the unstintingly willing Panesar. Today he reverted to being an ace up the sleeve, and wasn't even called upon for a single over.
England's bowlers may have been inexperienced in terms of the matches they've played, but statistics - as ever - don't begin to tell the whole story. Experience counts for nothing if the hunger is no longer there, as Harmison in particular has spent most of the last year demonstrating. Anderson and Sidebottom, on the other hand, played with the desire of two men at the polar opposite ends of their career trajectories.
"Both me and Ryan would both say we've not really shown what we can do at this level," said Anderson, whose five-wicket haul for Lancashire in the Roses match at Old Trafford earlier this month was the stepping-stone to greater things. "Obviously Ryan has had a great summer so far, and now I can start showing what I can do as well. I've done a lot of work on my action and fitness, and I needed a lot of overs under my belt. Thankfully I've got that this summer."
To hear Anderson speak is to be reminded of the acute trauma of his early years of Test cricket. He mumbles rather than pronounces, unsure of his opinions after being scorched in the celebrity spotlight during his first incarnation as an England bowler. He endured too much, too soon, as he hurtled from a one-day debut in Australia to a starring role at the 2003 World Cup, then too little, too long, as Duncan Fletcher and the England management grew tired of his reticence and reduced him to a bit-part role on innumerable overseas tours. Incredibly, this was his first home Test since the summer of 2004, and his first appearance at Lord's since the defeat against South Africa a year earlier.
|It was a performance of stunning totality from England's quick bowlers. They were sharp, aggressive, accurate and unrelenting - everything, in fact, that their predecessors had failed to be throughout a lacklustre series win against West Indies. On that occasion, England owed every shred of their momentum in the field to the unstintingly willing Panesar. Today he reverted to being an ace up the sleeve, and wasn't even called upon for a single over|
Today's performance reawakened memories of that meteoric rise - Anderson was disciplined yet flamboyant, just as he had been under the Newlands floodlights in the 2003 World Cup, when a Pakistan middle-order including Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana were routed for figures of 4 for 29. Now he added three more of the most illustrious scalps in the game. Between them, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly have amassed 62174 international runs, but in the space of 12 overs, Anderson nailed all three with an assortment of perfectly pitched swingers.
Ganguly was the last of the trio, and arguably the best, as Anderson flipped the ball at the top of his mark and curved an immaculate inswinger across the left-hander's bows. "I've been constantly working on the inswinger," said Anderson." I've still not perfected it, it's still not going exactly where I want it to, but it's a lot better and hopefully it can get even better. I'm more confident bowling it in matches, and it's a really dangerous ball to have, especially when my stock ball is an outswinger."
Anderson and Sidebottom were not merely hungry in this match, they were famished. Panesar was the same when he was finally unleashed on the Aussies at Perth last winter, after a short but intense period in the wilderness, and even Tremlett has his own tale of rejection and redemption to recount, after serving as 12 th man in four of the five Tests of that summer of 2005.
These are rookies with a difference. In the build-up to the match, Peter Moores suggested that England were better off "looking forward than back", an attitude that was markedly different from the dying days of the Duncan Fletcher regime. With Stuart Broad waiting in the wings, and the current incumbents revelling in the trust and responsibility they have been afforded, England might finally have drawn a line under an era that, for the past 18 months at least, has proved as damaging as it was glorious.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo