The Magician

T

The third day at Lord’s really could’ve gone either way. The Windies had a slender lead with seven wickets in the hutch. With better weather in the offing, and Shai Hope still at the crease, they had a real opportunity to post a target of over 200 … something England’s fragile top order wouldn’t have fancied at all.

But Jimmy Anderson crushed them. He was simply too good. After reaching the superb landmark of 500 test wickets the day before, his tail was up and the West Indies had no answer. To be fair to the visitors, Jimmy would have blown away most batting lineups on Saturday. His final analysis of 7-42 was a career best. He’s probably never bowled better.

What could have been a banana skin therefore turned into a cakewalk. England were left chasing just over one hundred. And as soon as Mark Stoneman plundered a couple of early boundaries victory seemed highly likely. When Kemar Roach left the field after bowling just one over it was inevitable.

Although Ben Stokes also played an important role in this somewhat peculiar test, the day clearly belonged to Jimmy. He has been an absolutely terrific bowler for England, I love watching him, and some will argue that he’s the best English swing bowler of all time. He’s certainly the best in recent times.

I’m sure we’ll dissect Jimmy’s test record in the future – Jack already has a good piece lined up – but I don’t want to dwell on any inadequacies today. I just want to celebrate his brilliance in home conditions. Nobody complains when Indian spinners tie opponents in knots on subcontinental dustbowls, so why should Jimmy be criticised for demolishing batting lineups under overcast skies in England?

Personally I think that Anderson is a magician. His control of the swinging ball – something plenty of fine bowlers have struggled with – is remarkable. He has all the tricks. And his action is rhythmic, athletic, natural, and repeatable. It’s wonderful to watch someone so utterly in control of their craft. If I wasn’t so averse to obvious cliches, I’d call him an artist.

It’s hard to imagine where England might have been without Anderson over the years. We certainly wouldn’t have won either the 2010/11 tor 2013 Ashes without him. Although fortunately I think he can play for another two or three years – he’s a natural athlete and his action shouldn’t put his body under too much strain – he’s basically irreplaceable.

I certainly think England might have lost this match without Jimmy’s brilliance in the West Indies second innings. There’s a massive difference between chasing just over a hundred and a target over two hundred. Because England were always likely to win, Stoneman and Westley were able to play relatively freely. The opposition were basically demoralised.

And so now England turn to the Ashes. I still maintain that this was a vital test match. Had England lost, which looked possible on days one and two, we would have travelled to Australia rather sheepishly. Instead Root’s team will feel good about themselves, and confident enough (after beating South Africa) to put their frailties to the back of their mind.

Whether the batsmen that got us over the line today will be on the plane, I guess only Whitaker and Co know. However, I was pretty impressed with Stoneman’s short knock. He played aggressively from the outset and looks compact enough to do well down under – if he can handle the pace.

Westley, on the other hand, looked better today albeit under no pressure (except the pressure for his place). It would be harsh to drop a man who’s just scored 40 not out but the selectors and management must decide whether he has the game to cope down under.

Two lines of argument immediately spring to mind. Some will argue that Westley’s weakness outside off-stump, and his penchant for playing through the leg-side, will render him useless. On the flip side, isn’t that exactly what everyone said about Steve Smith a couple of years ago? Fortunately for Westley the pitches down under are generally true. Perhaps the relative lack of seam movement will suit him.

Anyway, I’m sure England’s batting line-up will be discussed in depth another day. For now we should focus on Jimmy Anderson. He’s a miserable sod most of the time but that just makes him one of us.

And boy can he bowl.

James Morgan

22 comments

  • James Anderson was outstanding in this match, he appeared to have the ball on a string at times. His fitness for a 35 year old player with 129 tests under his belt is very impressive, and I honestly think he might be able to do what the great Richard Hadlee did, ie play until he’s about 40, at least in home conditions. His action seems to be one that doesn’t put too much strain on his body and he is still so lithe and athletic, he shows this in his fielding too. He might struggle in Australia again given that the ball they use doesn’t swing very much, so I hope that Broad, Stokes, Roland-Jones and Woakes can help him out a bit. Anderson will be sorely missed by England when he does decide to retire. Are there any talented young swing bowlers out in the counties at present ? I have heard good things about Jamie Porter of Essex, although I don’t know if he swings it. We do need to unearth the successors to Anderson and Broad.
    I hope James Anderson can take many more wickets for England, he might be able to get up to 600 !

  • A fantastic bowler and a state schoolboy. Proves you don’t have to be a public schoolboy to succeed. Also I’d be interested to know how many catches he’s had dropped off his bowling at Test level.

    Bowlers win matches. They are the true heroes of the game at all levels.

    • It does show that one can be state-educated and succeed at the highest level of this sport but then, so far as one can ascertain, of the 15 men who have taken 200 Test wickets or more for England, only Stuart Broad and John Snow were educated at fee-paying schools in this country (I am not sure about Andrew Caddick).

      It’s a bit different with the top 15 run scorers – I make it 8 privately educated and 7 through state schools. Probably shows bowling is rather harder work!

      Your question about catches is interesting – for one thing he doesn’t have JM Anderson catching for him except for the odd c&b.

    • Bowlers win games but the game has marginalised bowlers to nothing more than bowling machines to be slogged

      Bring back draw cricket in all ECB leagues to being back the dominance of ball over bat

  • Anderson is a genius in home conditions. Unbelievable to watch at times. His fitness and longevity are outstanding. The only thing wrong with him is that he hails from Burnley.
    However, I do worry about our bowling attack for the Ashes – a lot of swing bowlers (Jimmy, Stokes, Woakes) but not enough pace. We might struggle with the Kookaburra.

  • As a bowling unit, once Woakes is match fit, we are a match for the Aussies. Anderson and Broad have been doing the business the world over for years and won’t stop this winter. We have 4 very different types of seam bowler, all pushing 90mph, so I don’t see lack of pace as a problem. A lot could depend on the impact of support spin from Moin and Lyon.
    I don’t think the Aussie batting is significantly better than ours, and we certainly bat deeper, up to Woakes at 9.
    I’m sure the Aussies would rather have Anderson in their line up than ours. He is experienced enough not to be bothered by lack of swing. There wasn’t much at Lords today, but he delivered in spades, admittedly against luke-warm batting.
    The Ashes should be close, but I believe we have more potential match winners.
    If we can get the eye over Warner and Smith early on we could easily win.
    A big thank you and good luck to Otis Gibson, who has had a significant impact as our bowling coach, and I’m sure Anderson and particularly Stokes would echo that. He’ll be difficult to replace.

    • Not denying that most can swing the ball at decent pace (early to mid 80s) in English conditions. However, I think you’re dreaming a bit if you think our bowling attack can sustain a period where they all bowl at about 90.

      • I think 1 or 2 balls an over as a reminder to the batsmen is enough on the pace front. More important is the use of the crease to change angles and lines, something the Aussies are good at. Otis Gibson has certainly improved us here, especially with Stokes, who was a bit one dimensional until this season. Broad and Anderson have used this well for some time, a major factor in their increased wicket taking.
        Because of the heat and harder ground out there spells will be short anyway, so bowling changes will be key and how Moin is incorporated into this. I hope Root is up to the challenge. He certainly has enough informed opinion round him. Hopefully they offer consistent advice.

      • Broad and Stokes have both been recorded at that this summer and Anderson is certainly still capable of slipping in the odd quickie pushing that.

  • Anderson’s record in Australia:
    13 matches, 43 wickets at 38.4 (no five-fors).

    He may be about to bowl England to an Ashes’ win – but his previous record doesn’t realy support the idea.

    For anyone interested in how Australia are shaping up, their problem team would be: Warner, Renshaw, Khawaja, Smith, Handscomb, Maxwell, ?, Starc, Cummins, Lyon, Hazlewood (or Bird). Starc has been injured but is expected to be fit; Hazlewood has done an intercostal and they are notoriously slow to heal so he may not make the start of the series. The ? is over the keeper. Maxwell has probably done enough to start. Warner and Lyon were their stand-out performers on their recent tour of Bangladesh. They have a white-ball tour of India coming up so may pick up more injuries.

    • Honestly, I expect Anderson to struggle this winter, but his 24 wickets at 26 in the 2010/11 Ashes were pretty key to England winning that series, and it seems a bit harsh on him to ignore that. He’s never single handedly bowled England to an Ashes win, and won’t because frankly England will need all (or at least most) of their bowlers firing to pull off a win in Australia. But in spite of his overall below par record in Australia, it’s reasonable to suggest that we’ll need him to produce one of his better series in Australia.

  • What is the plan if Anderson is injured in Australia? Especially as the England team is nowhere near as good as many think.
    Ali will not get much turn on Aussie pitches and will be targeted, as will Crane (if he makes the selectorial cut) – once the slow bowlers are hit out of the attack, Root’s options become very limited – even more so if there are additional injuries.

  • What a brilliant bowler he’s become. He’s gone from good to great in the last year or so. I remember the first time I saw him bowl on TV, in an ODI in Australia when he was about 20, before he made his Test debut. He was mechanically so smooth, I just thought “Wow”, he’s going to take 300 Test wickets. Looks like he might get double that! Imagine how many he might have got if the backroom “experts” hadn’t got hold of him and told him he has to change his action if he wanted to have a long career (yes, really…) He became innocuous, lost confidence, suffered a stress fracture of the back and spent a further year playing almost no cricket as England’s perpetual 12th man, before he reverted to his natural action. We very, very nearly lost him through rank incompetence.

    • In the 20 tests before he took the new ball in New Zealand, he took 62 wickets at 39.

      In the 109 tests he has played since then, he has taken 444 wickets at an average of 25.

      English cricket really is lucky that he got that second chance.

        • Given the technical woes of the batting I think we can assume coaching isn’t upto the standard required.

          Not sure how you fix it as in theory theynare the most qualified ever…

By James Morgan

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