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Something that David Saker had seen in Chris Rogers' batting led to a wicket and an on-pitch tribute from England's leading bowler
July 13, 2013
Anderson was looking at someone though. He was pointing. He was screaming. He was connecting with a special person on the balcony. It was passionate and romantic. But instead of a beautiful woman wearing a white gown leaning seductively on the balcony, it was the round, flushed face of David Saker.
Saker didn't blow a kiss at Anderson; he just gave him the thumbs up.
Only lip readers will know, or at least think they know, what Anderson said to his beloved coach. Anyone who didn't believe in cricket coaches might have been converted by this dramatic moment. Saker is certainly of more use to Anderson than merely driving him to and from the ground.
This all came about, like the best crime films, with a plan.
The plan was not all that complicated. Anderson would bowl around the wicket to Rogers. He would pitch it up on off stump. There would be a short midwicket. And Rogers would eventually flick one in the air to the short midwicket.
It could have been something Saker had seen in this innings. Or it could have been something Saker remembered from a Shield match against Rogers in 1999. It's even possible that Rogers showed the weakness to chipping in the air when Saker was Victoria's assistant coach.
Saker coached Peter Siddle and James Pattinson before leaving Australia for the England job. He was under Cricket Australia's nose for over five years. Victoria's fast-bowling line up was scary, and Saker was getting credit. In any of the many recent overhauls Saker could have been tempted back home to finish the job he started at Victoria.
Instead he plots the downfall of his countryman and gets screaming adulation of the opposition.
It wasn't just any wicket either; this flaccid flick from Rogers was what has given England their chance to win. With Rogers at the crease, Australia had one end locked tight. Rogers had dulled Graeme Swann. Australia had moved past 100. Michael Clarke was still with him. There were reasons to be optimistic. Hell, there were reasons to tease random English people that their 10-0 prediction may not last until lunch on Sunday, if you're that kind of fan.
And it wasn't as if a James Anderson late-hooping million-dollar ball took him out. The ball couldn't have been any straighter if it were a Southern Baptist Preacher. It wasn't particularly quick, maybe the slightest bit of pace off. It played no tricks off the pitch. Had there not been the yellin' and screamin' at Saker on the balcony, it would've looked like a lucky wicket.
Maybe it was. But England seemed to get a lot of lucky wickets. They continually aimed at Shane Watson's massive front pad until they hit it. They gave Ed Cowan a part-time spinner to hit out of the rough knowing that he might be more likely to have a go off Joe Root than Swann. They kept the ball in the place Clarke is most likely to play a half shot and nick behind.
But until tea, England were ordinary. They were flat. Steven Finn was hidden. Swann looked out of sorts. Anderson was manageable. And Broad looked more pantomime villain than cold-blooded assassin. They were playing like a side who thought 311 runs were way too many for Australia, even though the evidence was proving otherwise.
According to Ian Bell, the break came at the right time. Sitting his bowlers down, the man with the round face and Australian accent gave them new plans.
After tea Australia lost four wickets. They had to use their Ashton Agar. They only scored 63 runs in 34.2 overs. They lost all advantages. And referrals. They were naked.
Saker and Anderson had made them so. The coach, his 'most skillful bowler in the world' and their simple plan.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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