England will win this series 3-1. Whatever India manage to achieve from their current position, the reality is that in test cricket you don’t recover from being 8-4.
The tourists’ heads, inexplicably, began to drop at an early stage of the Southampton test. They will now surely resign themselves to defeat in this match sooner rather than later. And at the Oval they’ll probably barely turn up.
Yesterday’s rout is very simple to explain. India’s batting has not fired in this series. And Anderson and Broad bowled extremely well, especially in the first hour. The former in particular has re-found his very best form, and it underlines the point that when Anderson is good, England are good. At the moment it’s hard to see how they can win a test match without him bowling well.
Anderson will probably surpass Ian Botham’s record at the Oval and become England’s all-time leading wicket-taker. So it’s time to discuss where he ranks in the pantheon of our greatest ever bowlers.
Is he better than Fred Trueman was? You suspect not (and Anderson averages 30.09 to the Yorkshireman’s 21.57) although Trueman bowled on uncovered pitches, often against very weak Asian teams, and was armed by the runs of England’s finest ever batting line-up.
Is Anderson a greater bowler than Bob Willis? Maybe the pair – with their very different styles and modus operandi – are too difficult to compare. But maybe Anderson outstrips Botham himself. In terms of pace, and use of swing as their primary weapon, the two are genuinely comparable. Arguably, Anderson has become the more skilful, versatile, and penetrative.
What’s undeniable is that Anderson bows to no other England bowler in terms of stamina and durability, which is one of main reasons he’s approaching Botham’s landmark. This is his ninety seventh test, and by passing Derek Underwood’s record yesterday, he has now bowled more overs for England than anyone else in history.
I can’t help but feel though that Shovegate has tarnished Anderson’s reputation. Earlier in the week you might have seen the brilliant analysis of the affair by Tregaskis, and the very interesting ensuing discussion on the comments board.
The way it seems to me is that Anderson’s behaviour is just, well, extremely unpleasant. There’s a world of difference between genuine sledging – provocative remarks made in reaction to a shot or delivery – and what Anderson did, which is to repeatedly call someone a c***, off the field of play. Was it amusing or productive of him to call Jadeja a “fucking fat c***” to his face? What advantage did it confer to England? It’s a shame that in general the cricket media have glossed over Anderson’s aggressive vulgarity and instead portrayed MS Dhoni as the villain of the piece, for having the gall to object.
You might see Anderson-style conduct in football, but it would not be condoned in any other sport, or in fact any other walk of life. Imagine if professional tennis or snooker players yelled “fucking c***” to each other during a match? Or if you did that in your workplace? And yet cricket vainly prides itself on gentlemanly virtues and ‘Spirit’ which supposedly lifts the game above other, baser pursuits.
Alastair Cook responded to the row by citing exactly the kind of banal, dullards’ cliche you would expect of him: “what happens on the field should stay on the field”. Why should this be the case? What happens on the field is happening in public, before a paying audience. What happens on the field takes place when the players are representing their country. They’re on duty. Why should ‘what happens’ be beyond scrutiny? Why does an Official Secrets Act apply?
Speaking of Cook, what would the reaction have been if Kevin Pietersen had got out to a shot like that yesterday?
And while we’re on the subject of openers, Sam Robson is becoming a bit of a headache. Stick or twist?