At 39, Anderson still does the heavy lifting
- The 163 Test match-old James Anderson knows one simply has to keep pegging away at a line and length and has that ability to create doubt in the batsmen’s mind, against the run of play
England have gone 43 overs without a wicket after making India bat on a Lord’s surface they thought was damp with enough grass cover to trouble the visitors. In comes James Anderson with Rohit Sharma unbeaten on 83, playing his best away knock. Anderson had dismantled India’s middle-order in the first Test match in Nottingham with the aid of the wobbled seam delivery. This time too, he was expected to win the first session for England. After all, the last five Tests at Lord’s have been strongly dominated by seam. India’s openers, however, were resolute.
But the 163 Test match-old Anderson knows one simply has to keep pegging away at a line and length. He had relied on the natural variation frequently to do the trick when it wasn’t swinging enough at the start of Day 1. In the 44th over, he bowled one with a conventional grip, pitched full length, and it did both–swing and seam. After swinging away for 0.6 degrees, the ball jags back into Sharma with 0.8 degrees of seam after pitching, according to CricViz. Unsurprisingly, the two deliveries leading up to the dismissal were away swingers. Anderson has that ability to create doubt in the batsmen’s mind, against the run of play. Sharma is castled.
While Sharma was on his long walk back to the Lord’s pavilion, thinking of what might have been with 17 more runs, Cheteshwar Pujara was the man walking into bat. Short of runs, India’s No.3 was battling self-doubt big time. Anderson does not take long to sniff hesitancy. He bowls an away swinger that changes direction off the seam and England use the review to back an lbw appeal. Pujara survives, but his indecisive footwork is all too visible. Then he gets a fortuitous four, playing away from his body. Next over, Anderson first brings the ball in from close to the stumps, then goes wide of the crease and gets the ball to seam away. Pujara has nicked it to third slip. This is the ninth time Anderson has dismissed Pujara.
Another mouth-watering prospect of Anderson versus Virat Kohli was in the offing. But KL Rahul bats out Anderson till tea. Out of the only two balls he gets to bowl to Kohli after tea, Anderson beats him once before finishing his spell. Ollie Robinson finally goes on to get Kohli (42) with the new ball but India takes the day’s honours. Unfortunately for England, they still require their 39-year-old fast bowler to do all the heavy lifting. Sam Curran looked short of pace to trouble India’s batsmen. Mark Wood bowled bouncers from time to time using his high pace. But collectively, they were not as hostile as India’s fast bowlers.
England fans would shudder to think what would have happened if Anderson hadn’t passed his fitness test after a quad niggle. With Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes ruled out of the series for different reasons, England may find it difficult to rest Anderson in the next three Tests as well. For a neutral, that cannot be such a bad thing. Anderson bowling with the Dukes ball is a sight to behold.