Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day March 26, 2012

Anderson comes full circle

The Lancastrian's three wickets on day one at Galle brought him level with one of the county's most famous sons

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sukwinder on March 27, 2012, 12:15 GMT

    Jimmy is one of the best in the business at the moment!! Although his statistics will never do him justice, one cant measure the pressure he creates at the top and the uncertainty he creates in the batsman's mind!! He is one of the few fast bowlers I d pay to watch him ball every ball!! All the best jimmy!1

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2012, 9:47 GMT

    I am sorry, that I missed out on mentioning Wasim-Waqar pair along with Truman-Statham, Lillie-Jeff, and Walsh-Ambrose.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2012, 7:17 GMT

    Jimmy is doing well at the moment, allright. But, Truman-Statham pair is my all time favourite opening pace bowlers from England. Almost in the same class of Lille-Thompson or Walsh-Ambrose. None of the current test playing teams has an opening pace bowling pair, whose class comes anywhere near those legends.

  • Rachit on March 27, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    haha .. 3 wickets and he comes full circle .... he still averages 36 outside england ... and is he is so good, then why does he average 27 in england ... an english swing bowler averaging 27 in england is hardly world class ... and he is far from outstanding in all conditions ... typical english media ...

  • Jason on March 27, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    @Nutcutlet, sorry your analysis of Fred Trueman doesnt stack with reality, you dont take 300 wickets at an average of just under 22, by being 'erratic'. If anything when you look at the stats, when FST & JBS played in the same games they have pretty much the same returns, FST 143 @ 25.76 and JBS 141 @ 25.71. Tyson was also a yard or two quicker than FST. As for Anderson, hes a good bowler, and gradually losing the tag of being an 'english conditions' only bowler, with 53 wickets @ 25 in away series (SA,Aus, UAE and now SL) since the 2009/10 season, and if he maintains his fitness should pass FST during the winter/summer next year.

  • PAVANKUMAR on March 27, 2012, 4:35 GMT

    I think the real test for Jimmy starts in sub-continent conditions and his performance from yesterday proves he can succeed in flat pitches too. Having said that, this is too early to say Jimmy has mastered these conditions. He seem to have struggled in UAE but cam back strong here. We should wait and see till the end of this year to assess his performance in sub-continent conditions. BTW I used to love him since he bowled Youhana with a superb inswinging yorker in his first world cup and I hate to say that his antics on the pitch recently has made me hate him.

  • Simon on March 26, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    @Worldorder - You should check out Anderson's performance in the 2010/11 Ashes series. On the flat Adelaide wicket, on a baking first morning, a place like England in its surroundings, a place where the ball has no right to swing, he removed Ponting and Clarke with two of the most technically brilliant swinging deliveries of all time. Of course he performs better in English conditions, he is English, but he is still one of the best bowlers going around, and he has, I presume, taken at least 252 more test wickets than your good self.

  • Tom on March 26, 2012, 22:55 GMT

    worldorder: Well isn't that the same for any cricketer? Of the 35 bowlers to have taken 250+ wickets only thirteen in history have taken more away than at home. Also, that's a broad generalisation. Anderson's performances in India have better than par; he also impressed in the UAE and has done well in the first innings here. He was dreadful in Australia in 2006-7 and brilliant in 2010-11. He has had a good series in South Africa too. His figures will probably never reflect how good a bowler he is right now, because they were wrecked by some shabby performances earlier in his career (before he re-remodelled his action). Right now, next to Steyn, he is almost certainly the best fast bowler in the world, in any conditions, and has been ever since that unfortunate business with Asif and Amir.

  • ian on March 26, 2012, 20:01 GMT

    James Anderson & Brian Statham: although approximately fifty years apart, you can, with justification, put them into the same bracket - high praise indeed for Jimmy! Statham 70 tests 252 wickets av. 24.8; Jimmy 251 wks in his 68th, averaging 30.3. Statham never 'led' the England attack, although the concept of a lead-bowler wasn't current in his time - and to be honest, he didn't have that slight abrasive quality that Jimmy sometimes displays. Nonetheless, 'George' (BS) was an ideal foil for the more erratic but occasionally inspired Fred Trueman. Statham kept it very tight indeed and was responsible for many of Fred's wickets as batsmen found runs at the other end too difficult to get! Broad & Jimmy complement each other well, but there is not the same contrasting double act that made Fred & George such an ideal & fascinating partnership. And England was the best Test playing country during their best years - in the mid and late fifties.

  • j on March 26, 2012, 19:51 GMT

    Time and again Anderson proves lethal on flat dry pitches. His lethality on flat decks as well as green tops is beyond reproach. As for Monty's dropped catches: It's a given that England, the best fielding side in the world, have persisted with Panesar for his bowling only, and rightly so, and have long sought to hide him in the field. But to drop two skiers that would have seen Sri Lanka dismissed for under 250 is criminal. With standards in the side the highest in the world, Panesar has severely damaged his reputation in the side today. And I've been a Monty fan for years.

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