James Anderson: A Seasonal Swing Sensation

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Prior to the opening test at Trent Bridge, the newly installed Pakistani captain, Salman Butt, touted the new ball bowling partnership of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer as the best in the world.

And in a game where ball dominated over bat – in stark contrast to the boring run fest in the subcontinent – his bowlers performed amicably. Asif tore through England on day 2 with figures of 5-77 and Aamer looked impressive with an unflattering haul of 4 wickets for the match.

But the Pakistani quicks were easily overshadowed by the birthday boy James Anderson (28) who gave a masterclass in the art of swing bowling recording career best figures for the match of  11-71. Bowling  a very full length, from both wide and tight on the crease, swinging both ways in equal measures at a swift 85 to 90mph, Anderson was close to unplayable with the batsmen appearing to constantly be guessing. Case in point was the exceptional delivery to dismiss Imran Farhat on day 2.  Anderson, from around the wicket and very wide on the crease, appeared to spear it into Farhat’s legs. But  extravagant late away swing cleaned up his furniture. (watch England vs Pakistan 1st Test Day 2 Highlights).

In my eyes, the performance of Jimmy Anderson confirmed the firm belief that he is the finest exponent of a swinging ball currently in the game. A sentiment shared by England captain Andrew Strauss:

“I always maintain that when the ball is swinging there is no better bowler in the world than Jimmy.”

However, whilst fans, players, captains and coaches sing Jimmy’s praises after breathtaking performances like that at Trent Bridge, few would dare to consider him for the title of “best quick in the world”. That accolade lies firmly with South Africa’s Dale Steyn.

Pick any seasoned cricket fan throughout the world and they’ll tell you that James Anderson is a bowler that performs better when the conditions suit him.  And clearly home, swinging conditions suit. But the extent of this observation, without a closer look, could easily be underestimated.

A BRIEF INTERLUDE: Last week James Anderson featured in the One Hand One Bounce’s weird XI of cricketers who only have one gear, know one way to play, or are either really good or really bad.  You can listen to the One Hand One Bounce cricket podcast episode using this link. In the case of Jimmy he fits into the “when he’s good he’s really good, when he’s bad he’s really bad” category.

Let’s take a look at his record…

Overall Record: 49 Matches, 176 wickets, average of 32.52

Home Record: 30 matches, 124 wickets, average 27.78

Away Record: 19 matches, 52 wickets, average of 43.84

The discrepancy between his home and away records is exceptionally large by normal standards. With one eye already fixated on the Ashes, we can inspect Jimmy Anderson’s record in the Ashes to date…

Overall Record vs Australia: 8 matches, 17 wickets, average 56.17

In Australia: 3 matches, 5 wickets, average 82.6

In England: 5 matches, 12 wickets, average 45.16

Merely looking at the stats as an England fan would not exactly fill you full of confidence knowing that James Anderson is the man to spearhead England’s attack down under. But then again statistics can often be misleading.  Andrew Lang once said of statisticians…

“They use statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than for illumination.”

To assess Jimmy Anderson on statistics alone would not be a fair assessment of his 2010 Ashes credentials. It’s easy to forget that he came into the England setup after only playing a handle of games for his county Lancashire. Going from predominantly club cricket for Burnley to the international set-up against the likes of Australia is a testing feat.

In his early test career he was a quicker bowler but he was wild and tended to go for runs. Nowadays he’s matured beyond measure and possesses a control and  consistency which was lacking in the 2007 Ashes series down under.

England will feel confident to have James Anderson as the spearhead of an increasingly confident bowling lineup when they head down under come December. But until he performs against Australia, in conditions out of his comfort zone, there will always be question marks about James Anderson as a multidimensional bowler. Can he take wickets in Australia? Can he prove his critics and the stattos wrong? What are your predictions?

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