Tag: James Anderson (page 1 of 5)

James Anderson: Lord Megachief of Gold 2017

Our annual Lord Megachief of Gold award is the highest honour in cricket. The title is recognition of performance over the previous calendar year. Here are all the winners.

From a personal perspective, one of the great tragedies of modern Test cricket is that we don’t draw the curtains, switch off our phone and scrutinise each and every delivery bowled by James Anderson. He has been so brilliant for so long that what he does has become no more remarkable to us than the fact that human life exists.

Even the most extraordinary things can eventually become wallpaper.

Rivals

You’re probably thinking ‘what about Steve Smith?’ because it’s all anyone’s been banging on about for the last few weeks. Honestly, why don’t you all just agree to live in a gargantuan harem and marry him?

Let’s put Steve Smith in context.

With 1,305 Test runs at 76.76 and six hundreds, he’d probably make the podium. However, the batsmen named Lord Megachief of Gold typically do better than that.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul averaged over 100 in Tests in both 2007 and 2008; MS Dhoni averaged 92.25 in 2009, plus he kept wicket and won a billion one-day games; Ian Bell averaged 118.75 in 2011; Michael Clark averaged 106.33 in 2012; Brendon McCullum and Angelo Mathews averaged in the 70s in 2014, but did so in such freakish and contrasting ways that each had a unique case; and Kane Williamson averaged 90 in 2015.

Even this year, Virat Kohli’s averaged 75.64 and he’s done so scoring 50 per cent quicker than Smith.

Smith’s is a lofty sustained brilliance defined by the fact that this year isn’t even ‘all that’ by his unique standards.

Also, it’s our website and we’ll pick who we want.

There are perhaps two other bowlers who also warrant a quick mention. Kagiso Rabada took 57 Test wickets at 20.28, but we’d argue it’s Nathan Lyon who’d push Smith down to the third step on the podium. 63 wickets at 23.55, largely playing against India or on flat pitches is a half decent effort by anyone’s standards.

Jimmy Anderson (via BT Sport)

But enough about everyone else

Jimmy’s taken 55 Test wickets at 17.58 – and this despite playing his winter matches in a team that’s been getting royally battered.

There will again be the argument that many of these wickets were taken on green, seaming English pitches. Guess we’ll have to counter this again.

Imagine a hypothetical scenario where a player won half the Tests he played for his team but contributed nothing in the other half. A player who single-handedly gave his team victories in 50 per cent of its matches would be a name for the ages.

But it’s hardly like Anderson hasn’t been contributing Down Under. He’s basically been waging a one-man war. Well set batsmen annihilate bowling averages and the 16 wickets he’s taken at 26.06 would surely have come cheaper had the strongest support not come from Craig Overton (six wickets at 37.66).

Even more context

Context, context, context, averages, averages, averages. We’ll be through all this in a second, we promise. We just want to frame the ‘English bowler takes wickets on green, seaming English pitches’ argument a bit better.

These were the returns of England’s other seamers in 2017:

  • Stuart Broad – 30 wickets at 36.06
  • Toby Roland-Jones – 14 wickets at 19.64
  • Ben Stokes – 16 wickets at 31.31
  • Chris Woakes – 12 wickets at 51.41

Those are his team-mates, bowling in the same matches. Anderson’s basically been twice as effective as Stuart Broad, while Toby Roland-Jones might want to try and sustain that level of performance for more than four matches before getting too pleased with himself.

The best English bowler we’ve seen

At the age of 35, we consider James Anderson to be the benchmark for swing bowling in a very real sense. If he doesn’t take wickets, we very rarely even consider the possibility that he could have bowled better. We tend to conclude that he achieved all that could be achieved by a swing bowler in those conditions and so instead look to his team-mates in our bid to pinpoint the team’s shortcomings.

Like R Ashwin last year, Anderson’s greatest achievement is in meeting and occasionally even exceeding expectations that are really quite unreasonable. There will be young England fans who have never really heard a commentator say about their team that it ‘failed to make the most of good conditions for swing bowling’.

Plonk Anderson in a low-scoring game on a September pitch and he’ll take 7-42. Gift him a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bowl with a new pink ball under lights in Australia and he’ll actually make use of it.

The whippersnappers among you will have to trust us on this: failing to make the most of good conditions for swing bowling really is a thing. It will happen again – almost as soon as James Anderson retires.


Hope can hibernate

Jimmy Anderson (via BT Sport)

Hope never truly dies. It can however recede to the extent that it entirely loses consciousness. It’s safe to say that at around the point Australia emerged for their second innings, hope was in deep hibernation. A little while later it re-emerged after faint rays of Jimmy Anderson had warmed the metaphorical earth.

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t let opposition batsmen pass 20. Anderson managed the unthinkable and all but forced several of England’s specialist batsmen to perform semi-competently. He also persuaded people to talk more about Steve Smith’s non-enforcement of the follow-on than Joe Root’s insertion of Australia on day one (it’s odd how often the cricket itself is seen as somehow secondary to the captains’ decision-making).

Anderson finished with five wickets, but encouraged the umpire to raise his finger on about eight occasions. His brilliance is not that he can make use of more helpful conditions; it is that he invariably does.

England’s second innings scorecard currently sports the prefix “If…”

If they can have a good partnership early on day five, their target of 354 will actually start to seem attainable.

If Joe Root is out early on, hope might start to feel a little dozy again.


England have (apparently) been lacking motivation

Joe Root (via Channel 5)

The Ashes, you know, it’s hard to really get up for. Hard to get up at 5am or whatever and hard to get up in the ‘come on, let’s give it everything’ sense too.

Or at least that’s the way England have been painting things.

James Anderson said the tourists could take “extra fire” from having got into good positions during the first Test only to let them slip.

More fire? It was the first Ashes Test? Why on earth weren’t you already deploying your full complement of fire? What were you saving it for? Some scented candles? An alien queen’s egg chamber? The one-dayers that no-one gives a flying full toss about?

Referring to that Bairstow-Bancroft bollocks, Anderson added: “We don’t need an extra incentive, but if we did it will give us that.”

This kind of comment is all very ‘going to give it 110 per cent’. He’s essentially implying that they’re already doing their best but from now on will do better than their best.

Joe Root agrees. He believes that Steve Smith’s recent press conference appearance in which he guffawed like a child dosed up to the eyeballs with Sunset Yellow will work “massively in our favour”.

“To see a reaction like that in a press conference is- I mean if that can’t get you up for the next game then I don’t know what can. If that’s not motivation to the players, I don’t know what is.

“Hopefully that will work massively in our favour. I know it’s an Ashes series, there is a lot on the line and naturally you are going to be motivated for every game but knowing the characters in our dressing-room that will really give them a bit of something else to make sure we put things right this week.”

So England fans, rest assured that England will be bringing extra fire and extra motivation to the second Test. If they lose that one too, you can be sure that they’ll then bring EVEN MORE to the third Test.

Not less. Losing Test matches definitely can’t eat away at fire and motivation. This is why the worst sides are always the most fiery and motivated.


James Anderson’s back!

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.

In Bangladesh, England typically made headway with the ball when they managed to get some reverse swing. Ben Stokes was far and away the most effective practitioner. Should England manage to get Anderson back into the team at some point they could then field a bowling attack that would effectively comprise two new ball bowlers, two spinners and two reverse swing bowlers.

This doesn’t exactly tip the balance in their favour, but it does give them a half-decent way of going about things.

This is fine. Life is mostly about making the best of things, hoping for a bit of luck somewhere along the way and then having a pint at the end of the week whether things have gone your way or not.


Seven things we learned from England v Pakistan

 

Via Sky Sports

Via Sky Sports

We’ve been trying to provide some sort of pithy and insightful summary of the Test series for 24 hours now, but it’s not really happening. We’ll instead content ourself with a vague collage of observations. If these are our workings-out, maybe you can provide the conclusion yourself.

Specialists and all-rounders

If you need someone to bat at seven or bowl right-arm fast-medium, England are spoilt for choice. However, if you want a specialist batsman, a fast bowler or a spinner, you’d be better off looking to the tourists.

England had more batsmen, but fewer effective specialist run-scorers. Despite greater numbers, they also had less diversity in their bowling attack.

If Moeen Ali could avoid being clattered for six…

Moeen emerged from the series with a better strike-rate than almost all the specialist bowlers. Blind yourself to the rate at which he concedes runs and he’s a very effective spinner. His stellar batting is an excellent distraction, but not quite blinding.

James Anderson has lost a quarter of a yard of pace

We don’t normally take claims that bowlers have ‘lost their nip’ too seriously because pace often varies from one match to the next. The difference with Anderson is that he said himself that he was down on pace in the second Test and then didn’t really seem to recover it. If he can retain a viable bouncer, he’ll probably be okay. Pace isn’t everything – but it is something.

Beware the out-of-form old pro

Younus Khan’s had it. Look at him. Look at the state of him.

Oh.

Beware the conquered leg-spinner

Yasir Shah hasn’t posed a threat since Lord’s. He doesn’t spin it. England have worked him out.

Oh.

Looking good and being effective are different things

Shivnarine Chanderpaul could have told you that, but James Vince has been trying to prove it from the opposite direction. We feared for Vince’s chances before he played and we haven’t seen a huge amount to reassure us since then. Nor has anyone else. County cricket’s who-saw-a-future-England-player-first-and-championed-his-cause-the-most competition will have to forget about this and move on. Do yourselves a favour though – don’t claim that a player ‘looks good’.

Misbah-ul-Haq

The last time Pakistan toured, cricket fans were left feeling sick and unenthusiastic about the game. Pakistan themselves were left a fractured mess. This time they leave with fans more enthused about the game and with a level of solidity to their cricket that it is hard to remember their ever having had before.

Misbah-ul-Haq is an alchemist who can turn middle-age into youth and chaos into order.


James Anderson expresses a sentiment we can surely all get behind

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

“My practice over the years has gone from searching for perfection to just doing as little as possible. The bare minimum.” – James Anderson

Speaking as someone who once earned the nickname ‘Bare Minimum,’ we are delighted with this revelation of the secret behind James Anderson’s success.

Perhaps if you were to read the quote in context, you might detect some sort of underlying ‘quality over quantity’ philosophy, but that is surely a red herring. The truth is that when James Anderson practised a lot, he got dropped, and now that he does the bare minimum, he is among the top Test bowlers in the world.

Join us tomorrow when we’ll try and make a case for Joe Root’s good form across all formats being down to his steadfast commitment to only ever doing half a job with his match preparation.


James Anderson and the very definition of greatness

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Last week we sort of maybe vaguely agreed to possibly think about putting down a few words about James Anderson and whether or not he was a ‘great’. As with most things we agree to do, we put it to the back of our mind and just sort of hoped it would go away.

Now that Anderson has become the number one Test bowler in the ICC rankings, bringing forth all the comment section scorn such a noble position entails, we figure we may have to tackle this topic after all.

What is greatness?

Any argument about whether or not a player is a great of the game always boils down to this and only this. For some weird reason, people develop very specific ideas about what constitutes a great player and nobody agrees with anyone else as to what that definition is.

Arguments may appear to be about the player being discussed, but in reality they are invariably about the definition of the word. This cannot be resolved and the player’s eligibility for the greatness club can therefore never be established. For all the heat and passion they inspire, such discussions are endlessly pointless and infinitely dull.

As for our own definition of greatness – we don’t have one. To be honest, we don’t really see the point in having a word if no-one agrees on its meaning. Our only definition is the more commonplace secondary one: a throwaway description of something impressive but inconsequential – a great shot, a great catch, a great cup of tea.

So is James Anderson a great?

If it’s not clear by now, we’re not going to answer that question.

What we will say is that while Anderson’s performances are perhaps more dependent on conditions than some others, the skill he shows when the ball does swing and seam is truly extraordinary. In those circumstances, we can’t confidently name a single player who has been his superior.

That has to be worth something. Imagine a hypothetical scenario where a player won half the Tests he ever played for his team but contributed nothing in the other half. A player who single-handedly gave his team victories in 50 per cent of its matches would be a name for the ages. With just two such players, you’d be doing all right.

This hypothetical player isn’t Anderson. It’s an nth degree exaggeration. Our point is that having huge influence in home Tests isn’t negated by less effective performance overseas because half your cricket is still a hell of a lot of cricket.

Conclusion

James Anderson isn’t hopeless overseas. If he isn’t as consistent as he is at home, he’s still put in any number of match-winning performances over the years.

In England, he’s better still. When he’s gone, we will not see the thing he excels at done quite so well for a long, long time. It’s possible we never will.

It strikes us that the only thing that’s really up for debate is the exact worth of the craft that he has undeniably mastered.


Swing, seam and no place to go – the joys of touring England as a modern overseas batsman

Touring England’s never been easy. The conditions, for most overseas batsmen, are as weird and difficult as one of those early-Nineties computer games made by one slightly unhinged bloke in his bedroom. Nothing works how they expect it to and they search for a solution with no real certainty that such a thing even exists. The challenge is even greater nowadays when few players benefit from long stints in county cricket.

When Kumar Sangakkara first toured in 2002, he played three Tests, didn’t pass 40 and averaged 21. On his second tour, in 2006, he averaged 38.50 with a top score of 66. On his third tour, in 2011, he finally made a hundred, but pretty much no other runs and averaged 30.66. It wasn’t until 2014 that he finally cracked it, making a hundred and three fifties and averaging 85.50.

It takes a while.

Sangakkara was a half-decent batsman and he had it relatively easy as well. He didn’t have to face this current England attack. Snooty comments about the quality of this Sri Lanka team – and there have been many – show a real lack of comprehension of just what the tourists are up against.

Bowling well in England requires two main qualities. You need to find some movement – either swing, seam or both – and you need to bowl with enough control to exploit that. At this point in their careers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad do both of those things just about as well as anyone ever has.

There may have been better England bowlers, but in Tests taking place in England there have rarely been more consistent performers.

Touring England’s never been easy. In 2016, with these two at their peak, it’s rarely ever been much harder.


James Anderson fully capable of spending nine years at the wrong end

James Anderson watching the ball in much the same way that he doesn't when bowling

If ever you want to form a pantomime horse with James Anderson, don’t expect him to dress appropriately the first time. Don’t expect him to get it right the second time, third time, or fourth time either. But give him a while. After nine years of equine double-arsedness, he might finally work things out.

That was how long it took him at Headingley. After nine years bowling from the Kirkstall Lane End to no great effect, Jimmy finally switched to the Football Stand End for this match and promptly took ten wickets.

As for his bowling, well, we covered that yesterday. And about 40 times before that. There really isn’t much left to say.


The impossible James Anderson

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

People often say of a spell that a bowler ‘looked like taking a wicket every ball’. It’s rhetoric. What they mean is that the player in question looked far more likely to take a wicket than you would normally expect.

So let’s word it differently. In his second spell against Sri Lanka at Headingley, every single James Anderson delivery appeared to have at least a 10 per cent chance of taking a wicket. He couldn’t control how the batsman reacted to what he created, but he did everything in his extraordinary power up until that point.

The weather was kind and the ball felt inclined to curve through the air. Anderson of course enjoys this. He translated the arcs of his mind’s eye into reality. First one way, then the other, the ball traced its satisfying bendy lines. As often as not, it pitched in the same spot, but despite that it beat the bat on either side.

What do you do? It was unfathomable for Sri Lanka’s lower order; an impossible task; like trying to kick away an ocean or stare out the sun.

Anderson’s fifth wicket, the tenth of the innings, was a shit one feathered to the keeper down the leg side.


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