Why James Anderson should be considered one of the greatest ever fast-bowling technicians

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England won the toss and decided to bowl first in overcast conditions in the second Test at Lord’s against India on Friday. And that meant just one thing – it was going to be all about Jimmy.

First over of the Test and James Anderson was on the Indian batsmen like a hawk. Four balls pitched perfectly outside off, swinging away from opener Murali Vijay. Then the fifth ball was bowled at the stumps, hinting at straying down the leg side only to change its mind midway and hit the top of off stump. In all fairness, Vijay would take that dismissal as a badge of honour.

Whenever England ace Anderson has the red cherry in hand and there is even a little bit in it for the bowlers, there is simply no respite for batsmen. Ever. Even at the age of 36. Among all fast bowlers the game has seen, Anderson must be considered as the best ever technician.

There are a few aspects to this view. One is the sheer volume of his work. Respectable fast bowling in Test cricket requires a certain pace and effort throughout the course of five days (or four as is generally the case now). The greatest away swinger bowled at 75mph will be swatted away with ease. That Anderson has lasted 140 Tests is a testament to his fitness and, more importantly, the technical efficiency of his bowling action. The fast bowler with the next best Test tally is Courtney Walsh with 132 matches.

There are many bowlers who bowled a lot quicker than Anderson and got more bounce. But for comparison purposes, we will just look at seam bowlers who took more than 400 wickets in Tests. That includes Glenn McGrath (563 wickets from 124 Tests), Courtney Walsh (519 from 132), Kapil Dev (434 from 131), Richard Hadlee (431 from 86), Dale Steyn (421 from 88), Shaun Pollock (421 from 108), Stuart Broad (419 from 120), Wasim Akram (414 from 104) and Curtly Ambrose (405 from 98).

Anderson with Glenn McGrath.

Anderson with Glenn McGrath.

Among all these great names, McGrath and Walsh are the only ones who can match Anderson’s wickets and match tally. Steyn would have easily been in this group but his intense bowling action put such a strain on is body that it resulted in serious injuries that all but derailed his career, underlining the importance of an action which is repeatable and sustainable.

Aussie legend McGrath’s stats make for great reading. His record away from home (260 wickets at an average of 21.35) is slightly better than his home record (289 scalps at 22.43). Plus McGrath has won every major Test series.

Anderson and Walsh average around 35 in Australia and have won series Down Under. But Anderson has a Test series win in India under his belt – in 2012 – something which Walsh hasn’t. So it makes sense to compare Anderson and McGrath.

Both McGrath and Anderson have actions that are simple, repeatable and allow for maximum zip and movement off the pitch. Economy of action allows both to raise the tempo even in the third or fourth spells. Where Anderson nudges just ahead of McGrath is that the Englishman forces batsmen to play and if the batsmen miss, Jimmy either hits the wickets, pads or the edge. McGrath, on the other hand, was famously denied wickets during an entire Test series against New Zealand in 2001 when the batsmen decided not to play him as his natural length sailed over the stumps.

That strategy does not work against Anderson. His line ends up on the wickets or just outside to catch the edge. Plus he can swing the ball in a mile. To top it, the Lancastrian is pretty neat with the reverse swinging ball as well, as he showed in India when the then captain MS Dhoni called Anderson the deciding factor.

Pakistan great Akram is arguably the greatest ever swing bowler. Steyn probably the finest out-and-out fast bowler due to his strike rate and success on the flattest of wickets. But Anderson is the one who has mastered his action and technique the most to become the second-highest wicket taker among Test quicks. Remember, when he started his career, Anderson suffered a stress fracture in his back as he tried to be a 90mph bowler.

It takes something truly special to deliver more balls than any other fast bowler in the history of the game – more than 30,600. And the latest ones at Lord’s are as lethal as they were a few years ago.

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Watch: Captain Joe Root says Ollie Pope is an exciting talent for England

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Ollie Pope and Joe Root at Lord's

Ollie Pope will have to wait until Friday to make his England debut after the opening day of the Test match against India was washed out.

The 20-year-old was confirmed as England’s number four batsman in the second Test at Lord’s and captain Joe Root had nothing but praise for the Surrey batsman.

Watch what Root had to say of the youngster below:

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A look back when England's first days of Test matches were washed out

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The opening day of the West Indies Test at Edgbaston was washed off

When the umpires called off play shortly before 5:00pm (8:00pm UAE time) for the second Test between England and India, it was the first time that a full day’s play at ‘The Home of Cricket’ was lost since the 2001 Test against Pakistan.

Here, we look back at some of England’s notable matches in which the first day’s play was lost.

1964 – England v Australia, Lord’s

You have to go back to more than four decades for England to experience the feeling of not getting out on the field on the first day. It came in the second Ashes Test with the rain so bad that it even washed out the second day. When play did begin on day three, the hosts bowled Australia out for 176 as Fred Trueman took 5-48. England made 246 in their chase before the tourists salvaged a draw, reaching stumps for 168-4.

2001 – England v Pakistan, Lord’s

The start of the two-match series but instead of the game beginning on the Thursday, the players were out on the field on Friday due to rain in London. England batted first scoring 391 but Pakistan suffered with the bat as Darren Gough took five wickets in their first innings total of 203, before failing again to lose by an innings and nine runs.

Nasser Hussain walks up the stairs

Nasser Hussain walks up the stairs

2007 – England v West Indies, Chester-le-Street

The weather proved to be a good omen for the national team and it wasn’t back until a decade ago that an England match didn’t start on the first day. West Indies were the opposition with umpires deciding to call off play at 12.30pm. England went on to win the match by seven wickets to clinch the series 3-0.

England coach Peter Moores (right) and assistant coach Andy Flower inspect the pitch

England coach Peter Moores (right) and assistant coach Andy Flower inspect the pitch

2012 – England vs West Indies, Edgbaston

The same two teams were again frustrated five years later at Edgbaston. Umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Tony Hill waited until 3:35pm to call off play. It was the first full Test match day to be washed out in England since the 2009 Ashes Test.

England v West Indies: 3rd Investec Test - Day Two

2013 – England vs New Zealand, Headingley

The following year, there was more misery when the opening day against New Zealand was washed out at Headingley. When the toss was done on day two, Alastair Cook decided to bat with England closing play on 337-7. They managed to score 354 but New Zealand fared much worse having been bowled out for 174. Eventually Cook’s 130 saw them win by 247 runs.

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