In Test cricket, watching a bowler making the red cherry talk is undoubtedly one of the pleasant things to watch. Swing bowling is an art, which very few have managed to master. It’s almost like a magic, moving the ball both the ways in air demands different set of skills and temperament. Along with the art, it also requires immense control and ability to execute it to perfection. And James Anderson certainly belongs to this rare breed of bowlers.
England’s strike bowler Anderson is one of the finest bowlers to have embraced the game of cricket. The man with over 500 Test scalps to his name has been a force to be reckoned with the red ball and a nightmare for many batsmen throughout his career.
After a disheartening start to the Ashes campaign at the Gabba, the onus of making a comeback was on England at Adelaide. Anderson didn’t have a great run in this game, which affected England’s success. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that a lot of England’s success depends on the way Anderson and Stuart Board fare in the game. They have been the spine of England’s attack and have done a commendable job over the years.
The off-field acts were enough to spice up the second competition and add drama to the series. The intensity was constantly on a rise, which only added to the theatre. English bowlers had a tough time in the first innings as Australia plundered a massive total on the board. To add to their woes, England’s batting floundered like nine pins and were bowled out for a modest 227 in the first innings.
Australia gained a massive lead and opted not to impose a follow-on. At this stage, Australia were clearly in the driving seat, another big partnership would have put England in all sorts of trouble. Although Australia are still in control at stumps on Day 3, but English bowlers did reasonably well to give themselves an outside chance.
England needed early wickets and to do so, Anderson needed to step up. The floodlights were on and Anderson got the pink leather to swing right from the outset. He delivered a fantastic first over, where the ball was swinging but Bancroft did well in playing out smartly. There was some movement for Anderson, and he also looked in good rhythm, which was a good sign for England.
In his second over, Anderson induced a fine outside edge with an away moving delivery from Bancroft but didn’t have the legs to carry to the slip cordon. England needed an early breakthrough and this was a golden chance, which fell short. But Anderson did not stop.
On the next ball, Anderson produced a similar delivery and compelled Bancroft to play at it. A fine outside edge was this time carried to the wicketkeeper as England drew the first blood. Anderson was utilising the conditions smartly and this was a perfect new ball delivery. Usman Khawaja walked in to bat at three and confronted a beauty from Anderson right away.
The ball shaped away from the southpaw after pitching and beat everything in its trajectory. Khawaja was lucky to have survived as this was the kind of a delivery, which would have got the better of many geniuses at the crease. Anderson was pumped and spilling fire with the new ball.
Anderson delivered four maidens on the trot as both the Australian southpaws didn’t have any answers to it. He beat the outside edge very often but beat it with a fair margin, which at times could be counter-productive for the bowler. He produced some good deliveries in between, but not good enough to sneak an edge or kiss the timber.
In his 10th over of the first spell, Anderson finally reaped fruits for the hard work by getting the better of Khawaja. The ball straightened up after pitching and hit the back pad of the southpaw after beating the willow, the on-field umpire ruled it out and it remained so despite the review. Khawaja had no clue whatsoever to this peach of a delivery from Anderson.
Chris Woakes got rid of David Warner in the next over and England were now tightening the noose around Australia. Anderson almost trapped Australian skipper Steve Smith leg before, and got his side the most prized scalp, only to be turned down by a review. Smith reviewed the decision and the replay suggested that the ball had pitched millimetres outside the line of leg stump.
Anderson led the bowling attack with example and found his zone under the lights at Adelaide. Eventually, it was Woakes who dismissed Smith as Australia were precariously placed at 53 for 4, but still have a lead of 268 with six wickets in hand. If Anderson can continue to weave magic with the ball on Day 4 morning, England will undoubtedly give themselves a huge opportunity to make a comeback.
Anderson has been unstoppable at home, but the similar magic has been missing in Australia. In 30 innings so far, Anderson averages 37.91 with just 48 wickets in his basket, which is certainly not up to the mark for a bowler who has more than 500 wickets. But, today it was different, he dominated with the ball. His career has not been a smooth ride to the top, but with every game he has developed and adapted well, which is the sign of a champion.