England v India: Evergreen James Anderson tourists’ familiar tormentor
[unable to retrieve full-text content]
Before Englands Test series against India started at Edgbaston on 1 August both teams, both groups of coaches and both sets of fans were fully aware of the factor which would decide the five matches.
There was no secrecy to it – after all, it had shaped Indias last two tours of the country, in 2011 and 2014. As such the build-up was dominated by it, with press conferences awash with talk of harnessing it and combating it.
Yet the intense spotlight hasnt served to neutralise it. Englands swing bowling in their perfectly-suited home conditions, as performed by masters of the art, has defined the first two Tests.
The worlds No1 Test side have been demolished, their fighting talk forgotten. The hosts are sitting pretty on a 2-0 score line following their victory at Lords on Sunday.
Their captain, Joe Root, has gone from firefighter following series defeats in Australia and New Zealand and a home draw against Pakistan to targeting a “dream” 5-0 series whitewash in the space of two weeks.
Home advantage is a big deal in Test cricket; England were beaten 4-0 on their last tour of India in 2016. But led by skipper Virat Kohli, India came into this tour determined to prove their ability in, for them, the most difficult place of all.
It hasnt gone to plan. India have looked supremely uncomfortable against Englands talisman James Anderson.
Coming into the series the battle between Kohli and Anderson was laid out: the best batsman against the best bowler. Kohli had been dismissed by Anderson in four of the nine times he fell to seam bowling in the 2014 Test series. If he could banish his demons, the theory went, India could prevail.
Virat Kohli's India have been undone by familiar frailties in English conditions (Source: Getty)
Befitting his personality, the tourists captain exuded confidence ahead of the Edgbaston Test when explaining what his side must do with the bat.
“Its pretty simple,” he said. “As a batsman, focus on plans you need to take to the middle and follow your instinct. You have to have total confidence and belief in your ability.”
And while Kohli himself is yet to be dismissed by Englands premier swing bowler, the same cannot be said for the rest of his side.
The game plan he laid out was nowhere to be seen as England ran riot at a gloomy Lords over the weekend, bowling India out for 107 and 130 to record a crushing victory by an innings and 159 runs.
Anderson took match figures of 9-43 to move to 13 wickets for the series at an average of just 10.30. The haul means he has now taken 59 wickets at an average of 20.15 in the last 11 matches against India in this country.
James Anderson (left) is 10 wickets off becoming the most successful Test fast bowler of all time (Source: Getty)
Being the No1 Test bowler in the world and having played for 15 years means Anderson has the wood over many individuals and many sides, but his dominance of India is stark.
Anderson has recently turned 36. He has bowled 30,778 balls in Test cricket since his debut in 2003 – the most of any fast bowler in the history of the game. Unsurprisingly, he has a chronic shoulder problem, which requires careful management.
Conventional wisdom in sport says he should be nearing the end of his career. And yet, that is far from the case.
After taking his 26th five-wicket Test haul on Friday, he said he doesnt feel old and will “keep playing as long as possible.”
“As long as he keeps his body fit, theres no reason why he cant go on for three or four years,” said England coach Trevor Bayliss.
“A lot of other bowlers do start to drop off mid-30s or so. Its only the very, very best that are able to keep it going. Hes showing that he is the very, very best.”
The remarkable thing is not that he is still going, but that he is still getting better.
James Anderson has managed a chronic shoulder injury for the last 18 months (Source: Getty)
Following the Lords result Anderson became the first England bowler since Sir Ian Botham in 1980 to break the 900-point mark in the International Cricket Councils world rankings. His average is below 27 for the first time since his fifth Test match in 2003.
The metronomic line and length outside off-stump, the arcing away shape and the seam presentation are as good as ever, while his vast experience cannot be quantified.
“Hes something that doesn't come along very often and weve got to enjoy him while hes around,” Root said. “Theres been chat about his longevity but, at the minute, hes bowling better than he ever has before.”
With Saturdays third match taking place at swing-friendly Trent Bridge, Anderson is likely to continue to enjoy himself as he looks to secure the series for England and push on in search of more records.
The danger he poses may be obvious, but as India and many before them have found out, its not easy to stop.