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Mr Anderson, reloaded

The reticent England bowler has shown that he has the goods to unnerve the best, writes Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Jul 22, 2007 01:47 IST
Rohit Mahajan

James Anderson is a reticent young man who hoards his words like precious pearls. Even discussing the dismissals of Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid doesn’t excite him, he contends himself by saying that he’s “very pleased”.

Anderson had excellent reason to be pleased on Friday and then Saturday, when he added the wickets of Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni to eventually finish with five for the innings.

Four years after he made his debut, having been picked out as the man to watch out for, Anderson’s mantlepiece has been rather bare — just 16 Tests before Friday, a best of 5/73 and a bowling average of 38.39 do not really suggest greatness.

But over the last two days, Anderson has indicated that he has the goods. He was the senior bowler in the absence of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, and the Indian batsmen would blush when they realise that they gave away their wickets to a pace attack that had just 20 Tests among them.

Anderson would have been glad to get the wicket of Tendulkar for even a 73, but that’s the total he allowed the trio of Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly in what is almost certainly their last Test at Lord’s.

Ganguly’s wicket was particularly impressive — Anderson had been bowling outswingers to the left-hander; when he finally brought the ball in, in from a perfect length, Ganguly could merely push at the air, missed the ball and heard his wickets get knocked over.

Anderson had got Dravid with an outswinger and Tendulkar with an inswinger; with Ganguly’s scalp, he completed a nice set of greats. Thus, nine days before his 25th birthday, Anderson gave himself the perfect present, a five-for at Lord’s that crushed India’s batting.

But he’s not one for birthday speeches, he was not going to stand on the table and hold forth on how he tricked the batsmen.

“Yes, a very special wicket,” Anderson said about trapping Tendulkar LBW. “He was looking in good touch, I’m very pleased.”

And did he feel that, being the senior paceman in the team, he had to make a special effort; that the absence of Harmison, Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff gave him an opportunity to get settled in the team?

“Yes, I’ve got to see if I can cement a place in this side,” he said, and proceeded to allow himself more than his ration.

“During the one-day matches, I had a little more responsibility and I enjoyed that, and I certainly did that now as well,” Anderson said.

And his views on Allan Donald, the South African pace master who is England’s bowling coach now?

Anderson perks up a bit, and allows himself to a rare effusion and, incredibly, utters a sentence with over 15 words.

“He’s got a very different approach as a coach,” he said, revealing little. “He talks more about match situations and all that, and that helps.”

Anderson, clearly, has exceeded his word-limit, is looking anxious and uneasy, he clearly wants to get away, and no one has the heart to throw another question at him. The man of action must have the right to restrict himself off the field.