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May 2009
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John Stern: Maturing Anderson has reason to smile

May 19th, 2009 by John Stern in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

James Anderson still speaks publicly with all the animated enthusiasm of Kevin the Teenager but his bowling is considerably more expressive.

The ball that removed Sulieman Benn in West Indies’ second innings at Chester-le-Street – a wicked late away-swinger from around the wicket that demolished the left-hander’s off stump – told us more eloquently than the man himself could have done how far Anderson’s bowling has come.

Let us dare to dream that the left-hander on the receiving end was not a West Indian No.8 but, say, Phillip Hughes, Simon Katich, Mike Hussey, Marcus North or Mitchell Johnson. Australia’s top eight against South Africa at Johannesburg in February contained five left-handers.

There are not many bowlers who can regularly swing the ball conventionally both ways without an obvious change of action but Anderson is one. And his bowling to left-handers was outstanding, whether pushing the ball across and swinging it late further towards the slips or, as he did for Benn, angling in from around the wicket and swinging it away.

With the addition of his reverse-swing capability, he has all the weapons and in Stuart Broad he has a willing and complementary junior partner. The two are friends and, as Broad says in the forthcoming issue of TWC, that enhances their on-field combination.

Anderson’s record is nothing to write home about – yet – but it is going in the right direction, his heroics in Durham lifting him inside the world’s top ten bowlers for the first time. His overall Test bowling average is 34, too high for a Test opening bowler, but given the batsman-dominated times in which we live, not as bad as it seems. In 21 Tests since the start of England’s home series against India in July 2007, he has taken 82 wickets at 31 with four five-wicket hauls. Forty-seven of those wickets have come against New Zealand and West Indies but 33 of them have come against tougher opponents in South Africa and India.

It is so tempting to get wildly excited about our Ashes prospects on the back of Anderson’s performance, which would be foolish.

But after the fanfare of 2003 and the unbearable burden of expectation, he has matured and developed gradually to the point where he is one good series from being a world-class bowler. He might even smile if we won the Ashes.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes |

One Response to “John Stern: Maturing Anderson has reason to smile”

  1.   Trevor Neale says:

    come July…
    pitches harden, moisture lost,
    swing disappears, at what cost?
    red rose providers,
    down on their broken knees,
    swingless wonders,
    reduced by ninety degrees,
    broadly speaking,
    no fire to surround,
    the boundaries short,
    hits out of the ground…
    swanning around wi’ subtle turn,
    never enough to regain the urn
    compare beef and onions,
    and the bulb will sweat,
    never faced such power,
    as the aussies have yet…
    with a set up of twenties,
    and fifties a plenty,
    no time to tune in,
    before the ashes begin…
    and as for the batsmen,
    well, prospering is in doubt,
    no time at the crease,
    before poor shots get out…
    and even if the aussie attack,
    in comparision with the past,
    something may definitely lack,
    Englands top order,
    don’t hunt as a pack…
    no vision, no commitment,
    no obdurance in defence,
    lack of sensibility,
    when the innings get tense…
    keeper unable to catch a cold,
    so if I may seem so unbold,
    don’t hang your hat,
    past the first test,
    we haven’t a hope,
    of winning the rest!

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