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September 2009
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Lawrence Booth: England mustn’t cut Daisy Anderson

September 9th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket

There was a moment earlier this summer when, against our better judgment, we thought Jimmy Anderson had cracked it. It was the final morning of the underwhelming Chester-le-Street Test against West Indies and Anderson, swinging the ball both ways at pace, squared up Sulieman Benn and knocked back his off-stump. Benn had, as they say, played down the Bakerloo while the ball was hurtling along the Jubilee, and – as Anderson headed off with match-winning figures of nine for 125 – the temptation was to spot his Mr Inconsistency tag fluttering away towards Lumley Castle.

This isn’t meant as a slight on Anderson, but we should have known better. That, after all, is the essential truth of swing bowling. Just as the former Yorkshire bowler, and now first-class umpire, Peter Hartley was nicknamed Daisy (some days ‘e does, some days ‘e doesn’t), so Anderson veered during the Ashes between the destructive and the anonymous.

After taking five for 80 in the first innings of the third Test at Edgbaston (all five for 13 runs in 38 balls: he bowls in bursts), Anderson picked up one more wicket in the series at a cost of 211 runs – and none at all in the last two Tests at Headingley and The Oval. His two outings in the NatWest Series have so far brought him one for 92 in 16 overs. By and large, he isn’t really bowling any worse. The ball just isn’t doing his bidding.

This stems in part from the swing-bowler’s curse. I once sat down with Matthew Hoggard and asked him why some balls swing and others don’t. He said he had no idea. There are theories of course: the darker the cherry, they say, the more it will move; overhead conditions matter, but just as long as it’s not too cold; and then there’s the mysterious influence of new stands which make some venues, such as Trent Bridge, more enclosed than they were before.

But there is also something about Anderson that seems to preclude permanent excellence. On 14 occasions in Tests he has taken four wickets or more in an innings, and only once – in that game at Chester-le-Street – has he gone on to claim more than two wickets the next time he bowled. And the nit-pick goes further. He has claimed three wickets in a Test innings seven times, following up with two or more only once.

In other words, Anderson is always at his least dangerous when you expect him to be on a high, and at his most dangerous when you don’t. The tendency to flourish, then wilt, then flourish seems in keeping with a character who is not a natural in the spotlight. He has had to work hard on his body language and public demeanour, and seems to feel most at home when he is using his vastly improved batting to irritate the bowlers (without his defensive technique at Cardiff, England probably wouldn’t have won the Ashes).

And yet, as part of a five-man attack, Anderson barely feels like a luxury, even when he isn’t taking wickets. Just as Shane Warne set the bar impossibly high for spinners of all descriptions, so Glenn McGrath did his fellow opening bowlers few favours. Anderson set up the win at Lord’s and undermined the Australians at Edgbaston. He may never be the out-and-out attack leader England crave, but – despite the middling nature of a Test record that has brought him 140 wickets at a shade under 35 – he remains a potential match-winner.

England should accept their new Daisy just as he is and, even on the bad days, be grateful they’ve got him.

Lawrence Booth’s fourth book, What Are the Butchers For? And Other Splendid Cricket Quotations, is published next month by A&C Black

Posted in England, Test cricket |

5 Responses to “Lawrence Booth: England mustn’t cut Daisy Anderson”

  1.   Gumbo says:

    Anderson may go anonymous in Tests but he has the ability to win at least one Test per series - so he is vital to England’s attack.

    I think he does quite enjoy leading the England attack as well. In the 25 Tests that he has played with Flintoff, he has taken 65 wickets with only 2 five-fors. In the 17 Tests he’s played without Flintoff, he’s taken 75 wickets, with five fiver-fors.

    Perhaps he has to be forced to be the leader to get the best out of him - he seems to find it all too easy to hide behind others.

  2.   Mick Jones says:

    Attack leader? Attack leader? Do me a favour.

    I love all this nonesense - his issues are nothing to do with conditions or whether he is bowling with or without Flintoff, it’s actually all about something far more basic and fundamental. Something known as ’standard of opposition’.

    See this page, case closed:;template=results;type=bowling

    Only teams he averages sub 30 against are NZ, WI and Zim. Bye bye Jimmy.

    The answer to your blog Lawro is ‘He’s not actually good enought’.

    Onions is an infintly better swing strike bowler. He actually makes the bastmen play.

  3.   Tam says:

    I don’t think the selectors could justify leaving him out - the potential for causing carnage amongst the opposition is too great too ignore, even taking into account the inconsistency. When he’s good, he’s very, very good.

    Plus he’s very easy on the eye - an important consideration for lady cricket fans.

  4.   Ian says:

    The difference between Anderson and Hoggard is that Hoggard learned to be effective in unhelpful conditions. Jimmy tends to go for 4+ runs an over when he’s not taking wickets. No one wants him to be a stock bowler, but he needs to have another method when things aren’t going his way.

  5.   Gumbo says:

    Mick Jones
    Here are Flintoff’s stats:;template=results;type=allround
    The only teams he averages sub 30 against are Banglas (2 Tests) and Windies. So … not good enough?

    And what about Anderson’s spell at Lord’s that was far, far more important than Freddie’s? And then his spell at Edgbaston? Both against quality opposition - and their top order.

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