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In 2008, after an embarrassing defeat in Hamilton, the bowling attack that would lift England to the top of the rankings began to take shape in Wellington
March 12, 2013
Wellington has played an important part in the current shape of English cricket. It was here, back in 2008, that half of a bowling attack that would take them to the top of world came together out of the debris of defeat.
A few days earlier, England had collapsed embarrassingly for 110 on the final day in Hamilton to hand the opening Test of the series to New Zealand. However, it was not the batsmen who paid for their mistakes. Instead, Michael Vaughan and Peter Moores took the axe to England's fast-bowling attack.
Out went Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison who, at the time, had 460 Test wickets between them. Harmison would play sporadically again, until finally being pensioned off after the 2009 Ashes, but for Hoggard this was the end. He flirted with the squad the following summer, but injury and loss of form meant no way back.
In their place came James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Already the pair was at different stages of their careers - Anderson had been around since 2003, Broad had only made his debut in the previous tour in Sri Lanka, sending down 36 overs in stifling conditions - and it was the first time they had been put together. The partnership would go on to endure, barring the occasional injury, rotation or form slump, for much of the next five years.
"It was big for me because I'd been so loyal to two players who'd been great for me as a captain, but you get a gut feel that it's the right time," Vaughan said earlier this year. "Broad and Anderson were ready and they were desperate to play, they needed to get into the team and we needed a new zest of energy, a new level of intensity. The whole team needed a gee-up and it made everyone else in the team think 'it could happen to us'. That was a big moment for the team and they are still playing. Anderson is up there with Steyn as the best."
For Anderson it is possible to pick it as the defining moment of his career. He claimed 5 for 73 in the first innings, after being allowed to play for Auckland the week before, followed by two more in the second, although not before an injury scare when he twisted his ankle playing football after the third day. Before that Test started his bowling average stood at 39.20. It had never been higher, and would not reach that level again.
Anderson has missed just five Tests since then; three of those were due to rotation (two in Bangladesh and one last year against West Indies at Edgbaston), one due to selection (Jamaica, against West Indies, when England were bowled out for 51) and one due to injury (against Sri Lanka, at Lord's, in 2011). He has taken 230 wickets at 28.08 in the 58 Tests since the recall in Wellington.
He was the leading wicket-taker in New Zealand's first innings in Dunedin with 4 for 137 - looking more like his usual self with the second new ball when he removed Hamish Rutherford, Ross Taylor and Dean Brownlie - to move on 292 Test victims. If he can go one better than his 2008 haul on this ground that 300-wicket landmark will be achieved.
For Broad, the Wellington Test was not quite so pivotal in his career - that moment came in 2009 against Australia at The Oval - but it was hugely significant. It was a changing of the guard for English cricket. Vaughan had been highly impressed by Broad since he first came into the England setup, describing him as the "the most intelligent bowler he has worked with."
Broad only took three wickets in the Test, although that included Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming, but there was already the sign of that ability to change the course of an innings, which has been somewhat lost over the last six months. In the second innings, New Zealand were fighting on 69 for 1 when Broad removed Matthew Bell and Fleming in the same over with the type of burst that would become his trademark until his recent problems.
Unlike Anderson, who is firmly entrenched as England's leading pace bowler, Broad's standing has taken a hit of late following his poor second half of the home season in 2012, two wicketless Tests in India and problems with injury. However, there were signs in Dunedin that he was regaining his form and confidence - although the hands-on-hip pose and frustrated kick at the turf were still firmly in evidence.
"His paces were up and again," Andy Flower, the team director, said. "We all ebb and flow a bit in our lives and have good times and tough times. Stuart is working very hard at his all-round game. He's working hard at his batting methods, he has always thrown himself round the field for us and for a tall fast bowler some of the stuff he does in the field for us is incredible. If he runs in with that sort of rhythm and power then I think we're going to see some good things from him."
When Anderson and Broad walked onto the field five years ago they did not really know what direction their careers would take. Now they return as the senior bowlers in England's ranks. Almost as far from home as they could be, they should feel right at home.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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