Anderson comes full circle
When James Anderson left Sri Lanka in 2007 after England's previous series here his career was at a crossroads. He had been dropped following the first Test in Kandy after match figures of 2 for 167. A few months later in New Zealand he was recalled in Wellington and starred with a five-wicket haul which led him to say he wanted to be the "attack leader". Not everyone was convinced it would happen but these days there is no doubting Anderson's credentials.
After that Test match in Kandy five years ago, Anderson's bowling average stood at 39.20 which is the highest point it has reached. Now, after the first day's play in Galle, it reads 30.32 which the lowest it has been. The three wickets he took also carried him past 250 Test scalps - the first England bowler to achieve that feat since Ian Botham in 1982 - and if he'd held a return catch off Mahela Jayawardene he would have gone ahead of fellow Lancashire fast bowler Brian Statham in the list of all-time England wicket-takers. To put Anderson and Statham in the same sentence shows how far the former has come in five years.
There is currently a Brian Statham end at Old Trafford, although it is the opposite end to where he bowled most of his overs, but with the redevelopment and turning of the square there may yet be space to honour Anderson once his career is over. By then he will have more than 300 wickets and has a good chance of overhauling Botham at the top of tree.
"The records are very nice but I think it will be nice when I retire and look back on what I've achieved," Anderson said in typically restrained fashion. "At the moment I'm just looking at getting another two wickets tomorrow and another ten in the second innings."
Anderson's skills when the ball swings conventionally have rarely been in doubt but over the last 18 months he has developed into an outstanding bowler in all conditions. He is one of the best exponents of reverse swing in the team and he found movement in the first over after lunch on day one to trap Prasanna Jayawardene lbw and move level with Statham.
One thing that has not changed much about Anderson is that streak of hot-headedness, something Statham was unlikely to have approved of. There was a hint of that towards the end of the day with England unable to remove Jayawardene and frustrated by the tail. He shared words with the batsmen which didn't impress Jayawardene and the umpires stepped in before Andrew Strauss asked his bowler to calm down. The heat will have played its part but the real source of his annoyance was probably Monty Panesar who had just fluffed his second catch in two overs to reprieve Jayawardene.
"It's disappointing especially as he focussed on that at the start of the trip. Catches are crucial to getting 20 wickets and two of them weren't the most difficult of catches," Anderson said. "Getting them eight down on the first day we'd have taken that, so we have to put it behind us. We've got one job do to tomorrow and get two wickets. If we do that I think we've done a good job and then we'll pass it over to the batsman."
England's bowlers rarely do a bad job these days and, despite Sri Lanka's fightback, eight wickets on the opening day is good reward. Now it is time for the batsmen to repay the favour.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo