First Test: Reverse swing is the only way forward for England

  • Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times, Nottingham
  • Updated: Jul 31, 2014 12:02 IST

It was only the first afternoon of the Test and series, and the ball just 30 overs old. To everyone’s amazement, James Anderson was getting the ball to go the other way.

Playing on a dry, slow and low wicket, India may be excused to feel as much at home at Trent Bridge as England.

And reports say the teams are likely to get similar conditions at the other venues too. The wicket at Lord’s against Sri Lanka last month had the same surface.

It calls for a change in tactics. As seen in the first innings of the first Test, the new ball is not that difficult to negotiate. It’s the old ball which can be a more potent weapon. The exponents of reverse swing become the key men.

Till they were frustrated by India’s last-wicket pair, England had reaped the rewards for reworking their line of attack. On the first day, we had Anderson workin on the India batsmen. He claimed the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara, after lunch on Day 1, with one that went the other way, having him caught at short mid-on.

Drying fast
“In these conditions, reverse swing will be a factor in this series. The wickets are drier now because of the better drainage system; it sucks out the moisture from the surface,” spinner Graeme Swann, who till last season was Anderson’s England bowling partner, told HT.

Swann said the signal when to switch the line of attack will come from wicketkeeper Matt Prior. “It’s Prior who gives the alert when he notices any hint of it (reverse). “Then the team will try and keep the ball dry and maintain the shine,” he said.

And, how does his food friend, Anderson, go about his work? “Anderson is a master at the art. The key is his wrist position, it’s absolutely straight. He doesn’t try to cut the ball with his fingers or flick the wrist. He just adjusts the seam position, holds it the other way and gets the swing.”

In reverse swing, the line of the bowler is straighter and hence the field placements will also change with a packed leg-side field. The catching cordon is spread from short mid-on, right next to the wicket, to wide of short midwicket.

As to how effective Anderson can be, India had learnt at the Eden Gardens in the last series (2012-13) when he provided solid support, with six wickets in the match, to spinners, Swann and Monty Panesar, bowling England to a famous series-clinching victory. In the first innings here, he had India under pressure with three wickets till the last-wicket pair of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami launched a counter-attack.

On the other side, the visitors will be banking on Shami to play the same role for them. The Bengal bowler can be good with the old ball. On Indian wickets, he has been highly successful reversing as he showed in his debut series against West Indies.

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