Anderson nears the summit: day one at Old Trafford


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?


  • Slightly off topic, but, this ICC stitch up means we will probably have to play this bunch more frequently. Five tests for this lot is an absolute joke. Sri Lanka would have given us a better show, with more fight! The BCCI are writing cheques their team’s abilities can’t cash, and whilst the “Administrators” follow the money Test Cricket is going down the tubes!! Rant over, haven’t had my breakfast yet and feeling particularly grumpy!!

  • Let’s not focus too much on Jimmy’s behaviour. Yes he goes over the top and a word in the ear is clearly required (as opposed to Cook’s disappointing decision to back his man), but we all loved it when Jimmy was giving Mitchell Johnson an earful in 2010/11.

    In terms of his bowling, I think his best is slightly inferior to Botham’s best – Beefy’s career average of 28 was warped by the fact he bowled medium pace off a short run during the final phase of his England days – but this only emphasises Anderson’s incredible longevity. He’s been flogged shamelessly by a demanding schedule yet continues to run in hard. He’s an incredible athlete and a very skilful bowler in all conditions now. His average of 29.99 (!) is a little high, but he’s played in an era of flat slow wickets, often with unhelpful Kookaburra balls, when the benchmark for top class batsmen is 50 not 40 as it used to be. Maybe the benchmark for bowlers should be higher as a result.

    Good point about Cook’s shot to get out yesterday. He looked really good yesterday, and drove the ball better than I’ve ever seen him, until that stupid hook shot. A dismissal very reminiscent of KP and one of the reasons, presumably, why he was dropped.

  • Anderson gets too much air time for me these days. I’ve always liked his action (perhaps that might contribute to his stamina), however I have never liked him as a cricketer. He’s a footballer in disguise and a nightmare to captain (particularly when the captain can’t captain him!).
    He’s a good bowler, but not a great bowler – 30 runs a wicket is not where the greats reside.
    He’s a nasty, angry piece of works who has about as much charm, charisma and class as Suarez or that other twat from Liverpool, Diof. I mean who would walk into an opposing teams dressing room and smack one of their players over the head with a cricket pad?
    But I say through gritted teeth that he does get that key wicket when required, or produce great spells which can turn a test match. But at the end of the day (I even sound like a footballer as well), 30 as an average for a front line bowler (using a Duke ball for most of his career I might add), will not put him in the worlds greats list, England perhaps, but not any further.
    Now that Chris Woakes seems like a nice polite boy………..

  • “Trueman bowled on uncovered pitches, often against very weak Asian teams…”

    Really? Of Trueman’s 67 test matches, 9 were against India and 4 against Pakistan. He took on average 4.6 wickets per match. Against India it was 5.9 and against Pakistan 5.5 per match, so not significantly different from his results against the other teams.

    Anderson takes 3.8 wickets per match, which I think is short of true greatness. And he has the benefit of a more helpful LBW law whereby you can be out if hit outside the line of the stumps if you are not playing a stroke. He is on a par with Gough, Caddick, Fraser, Hoggard, Willis and Botham. He is not up there with the 4 wickets per match crew which includes Bedser, FST and not many others of British nationality. For reference, Marshall took 4.6 per match, Holding 4.2, Walsh 3.9 and Ambrose 4.1, McGrath 4.5, DK Lillee 5.1, Gillespie 3.6.

    • Thanks, MIAB – I stand corrected, and good stats all around. For me, Anderson has been slightly more potent that Gough and Caddick, but for much longer. I agree that he is very good, rather than great.

  • What I find particularly nauseating about Cooks total backing of Anderson’s behaviour is that it’s only a month or so ago Cook was whining to anyone who would listen that “something should be done’ about Shane Warne’s attacks (sledging) on him in the media.
    Cook sounds like dear old Edward V111 as he toured South Wales in the depression and saw huge poverty and large amounts of out of work miners and steel workers. He famously said “something should be done” of course nothing was done, but at least he meant well.

    Cook seems to live in this bizarre world where Jimmy can strut about on the field calling people c–ts and pr—s and that’s fine but a former player (and a great player at that) is not allowed to criticise Cook in print. Perhaps Warne’s mistake was not filling his articles with f and c words.

    As Maxie says you can see why Cook will defend Anderson to the last breath because of how important he is to England. When the ball starts to swing around Anderson is the best in the world and England are very difficult to beat. But as we have seen before,when not much is happening England do start to bowl too short. As they did for most of the summer. Another interesting point about Anderson is he is another bowler whose bowling action The England management tried to mess about with. Finn, and Devon Malcolm were others who suffered. Thankfully Anderson recovered.

    England should win this test and will probably win at the Oval. But this is an appalling Indian Test team. You do have to wonder if Test match cricket will even exist in 40-50 years time. And the notion that number 4 and 5 in the world should have so much control of the game is questionable. But then we live in a world where money trumps everything else.

    • It’s not an appalling Indian test team, it’s a very green one, and one that will get better given more experience of international cricket. The skipper probably has a wee bit too much input into who plays in the first 11.

  • I don’t think Anderson is in the class of Steyn et al, but I think he’s probably the best English bowler for quite some time, certainly the past 20 years.

  • I agree Anderson is very good to excellent at home, but fairly mediocre overseas. I think he’s been overrated a bit because, he’s done very well in England, especially during the last few summers, and home conditions certainly help him a lot. This is how he does in England versus outside England.

    In England: 244 wickets in 57 tests (avg: 26.7, SR: 53.5, econ: 2.98).
    Outside England: 130 wickets in 41 tests (avg: 36.8, SR: 67.9, econ: 3.18).

    To be fair, those outside England numbers are a bit better if you only consider the last few years. But considering his career overall, his numbers in England are similar to Jason Gillespie when in England, and (gulp!) Ishant Sharma when he travels.

    Jason Gillespie: 259 wickets in 71 tests (avg: 26.1, SR: 54.9, econ: 2.85)
    Ishant Sharma: 174 wickets in 57 tests (avg: 37.0, SR: 66.2, econ: 3.35)

  • Reckon they’ll stick with Robson for one more test – I’m no expert but he currently looks to have a problem outside off. If he fails again then should give someone else a chance – any suggestions?


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