So where were you when James Anderson played bowling, which was quite simply one of the biggest overs in the history of modern test cricket? Obviously not in the ground and you are not allowed out. If you were lucky you were on the sofa.
It would have been dark outside, possibly it would have snowed. Maybe you were the only one. The house is completely silent except for the flickering television screen. Unshaven, unwashed, sitting comfortably, maybe in a dressing gown or in slippers. Maybe you brought the duvet from the bedroom with you. Baby it’s cold outside Dom Bess had gotten some water, 23 out of three overs, when Joe Root decided to bring his most experienced bowler into the fray.
Let’s hope you didn’t get up to make a cup of tea at this point, thinking he was going to toss down some looseners and get his rhythm going, like before. Nothing will happen here yet. Time for a brew.
James Anderson played bowling, which was quite simply one of the best overs in test history
Anderson is not like that. He is 38. Time is not on his side. Every opportunity, every wicket, every ball counts for him now. This was his moment. In the UK, it was five minutes to five in the morning.
When Anderson began his run up, India was 92-for-two hoping to pass the day. Five balls later they were 92 for four and that hope was as good as gone.
Anderson also took over two doors in one on his test debut against Zimbabwe. May 24, 2003. As remarkable as his 611 test wickets – most of all pace bowlers – are, his 158 tests are still amazing.
This is a career prior to Roman Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea, England, where he won the Rugby World Cup and Love Actually. Crossroads was still on TV when he started; the breakthrough artist at the BRIT Awards was Will Young; and the player of the game in his first Test was Mark Butcher. He retired 12 years ago. Andrew Strauss had yet to make his test debut. He retired on August 29, 2012.
Dom Bess had gotten a little water, 23 out of three overs, before Joe Root made a change
The English captain Root (above) chose to drag his most skilled bowler into battle
But here was Anderson, almost 18 years after that day at Lord’s, still preparing to toss her off the Anna Pavilion End. The value of older players to a successful test team should not be underestimated. This is really a nothing to gain environment with kids. Under pressure, the captain has to know that he can rely on two or three people to set standards and an example.
That’s what Root did on Tuesday. He saw Bess drown and turned quickly to Anderson. Had he not succeeded in unsettling India, it would be a very hard, long and hot day trying to complete this test.
Maybe a man only knows his game after 34,044 test deliveries. Anderson’s approach has a nice simplicity, low maintenance. He makes a difficult task seem without complications.
He knows what it is about and how to deliver it. He didn’t build his threat. It arrived, as Boris Johnson would say, ready to use.
His first ball immediately hit its mark, carried the suggestion of a backward swing, and was heavily defended by Shubman Gill, the opener who had rallied against Bess for half a century. Next ball, no fuss, it was gone.
When Anderson began his run up, India was 92-for-two hoping to pass the day
Just five balls later India was 92 for four and the hope of seeing the day was as good as gone
The ball spins and the arrow spins between bat and pad, a heat-seeking missile in Anderson’s hands.
Next up, Ajinkya Rahane. He wisely left Anderson’s third ball, but the next one exploded out of the red filth like an angry gopher, pounded it on the pads, swung in, and held down. A bellowed lbw appeal brought no answer, so Root sent him upstairs. The projection showed it would have rattled in the middle, but it hit the batsman out of line. The referee’s reputation, so Rahane survived.
Not for long. In full mode, in which he almost didn’t get it at the time, Anderson removed the off-stump at the next ball again with another inswinger, which Rahane couldn’t fend off. His aim was so perfect that the leg bail was undisturbed. India was in disarray. Rishabh Pant defended the last ball of the over, but the competition was over from then on.
There are some overs that are long remembered. Michael Holding tossed Geoff Boycott a bowling in Bridgetown in 1981, each delivery being more toxic than the last, until the last ball took the stump out of the ground.
Amusingly, Holding doesn’t even think it was his fastest that day, but test batsmen still gather around the online footage, howling and howling in laughter and admiration as the pressure builds.
Andrew Flintoffs (center) against Australia, Edgbaston 2005, is comparable
More recently, Andrew Flintoff’s battle against Australia, Edgbaston 2005, is comparable. He bowled Justin Langer with his second ball, had left Ricky Ponting behind with the sixth. Ponting called it one of the toughest bowling spells he’d ever faced, and it was only there for five deliveries, including a no-ball. This was the precedent that many cited in the search for superlatives to capture Anderson’s post on Tuesday.
In one aspect, what was going on in Chennai was even greater. Flintoff in Birmingham, who was holding in Barbados, was both encouraged by heavy support at home. The noise from the Hollies booth when Flintoff walked in was quite deafening, while footage from Bridgetown showed spectators scrambling over fences and barriers to enter the already overcrowded stands.
Anderson was in an empty bowl, the only positive sound being his teammates’ encouragement. He had to be his own fan club and mentally prepare for another day’s tough yakka like the Australians do on wickets who are no friend to seafarers.
He accepted this challenge, as always, and delivered a spell that inspired a famous victory. His numbers before lunch were 5-3-6-3. By the end of the test, England had become the first visitor in 22 years to win at Chennai. For a bowler, it has been argued that there are problems outside of English conditions. Anderson delivers the most exquisite consideration. His bowling average on tests across the subcontinent this winter is 9.9; His career average in India dropped below 30 at one point.
Anderson has been the world’s leading wicket taker for over 30 years among pace bowlers