Anderson mugged on way to the bank

England opt for spinner ahead of fast bowler for $20m Stanford match
Click to follow
The Independent Online

There were always going to be casualties thrown up by the world's first $20m cricket match and yesterday James Anderson became the most prominent. After leading England's one-day bowling attack for almost two years he has been dropped for tomorrow's encounter against the Stanford Superstars here.

It is part of sporting life but Anderson must have felt like he had been mugged on the way to the bank. He must have thought all along that he would be one of those to have a shot at winning $1m, the prize on offer to each member of the winning team. Two main factors conspired against him: the nature of the pitch at Stanford Cricket Ground which persuaded England that they must play a second spinner, Graeme Swann, and the return to the one-day international fold of Stephen Harmison whose bang it in methods were bound to be preferred on this surface.

The decision was the toughest of Kevin Pietersen's brief tenure as captain but it was also the correct one. Sentiment has a place in professional sport but most of the time it is best kept buried at the bottom of the kitbag. The duty of selectors is to pick the team to win the match.

"It was extremely difficult," said Pietersen. "He has taken it fantastically well and was brilliant in training yesterday. He has been part of the team for the last 12 months and has taken the field on every occasion. What we all realise is that we're playing to win for England and with the circumstances that have risen here in terms of the pitch and the outfield we have to play two spinners here. So unfortunately conditions have meant that Jimmy will have to miss out. It's unfortunate for a guy like Ryan Sidebottom as well who has been sensational for us in the last 18 months."

With so much money at stake there is the obvious potential for disgruntlement, disaffection and many other words beginning with dis. But Anderson's own anodyne statement suggested that the team was indeed the thing. He was disappointed, of course, to be left out, but always suspected that two spinners might have to play here. Anderson has played in 10 of England's 14 Twenty20 internationals and has missed only one of their last 50 limited overs of any kind, playing 27 in a row. His economy rate of 8.26 an over is well behind Flintoff (6.44) and Harmison (6.46), though the latter has played only two Twenty20 games.

For Swann it is an improbable redemption. He lost his place in the team in the summer to his Nottinghamshire team-mate, Samit Patel, and when he arrived here and realised the pitch was a raging turner he could have been excused for doing a jig of delight in his room.

Nobody in the English camp will be trousering any cash at all unless they win and that is a long way from being certain after watching the Stanford Superstars go through their paces the other night. Pietersen was dismissive of Andre Fletcher's whizzbang innings of 90 which contained seven sixes. "My mum could have hit six sixes last night with the full tosses and half volleys bowled."

There was a general change in mood yesterday. England and their camp followers appeared to lighten up having begun to realise that they might have been guilty of gross over-reaction to some of the shenanigans here this week. There have been mistakes, perhaps the spotlight has shone too brightly on the man bankrolling the event, Sir Allen Stanford, at his behest, but the proceedings were never intended to be conducted in a cathedral.

Pietersen said: "We have been given the privilege of coming here and having the opportunity to win some cash. We have been put in this position and there's nothing we can do. We have to make the best of what we have got and try and look at the positives.

"We've been trying to concentrate on getting the best out of the facilities in terms of the training for our trip to India. And seeing how India are playing at the moment all the talk is about that, how we're going to get them out."

Maybe, maybe not, but some of the talk should have been about how to get out Chris Gayle and the other Superstars swashbucklers, of whom there are around eight, tomorrow. However, it has been reported there is a huge sense of anticipation and joy here – and to succeed it has to be fun. Whatever sober, dispassionate and frankly miserable observers may say, and no matter the shortcomings of pitch and lights, it has been plain that the spectators, a mixture of locals and English holidaymakers, have been having a high old time.

"If you do something for the first time there are problems," said Pietersen. "An improvement can definitely be made in the cricket side of things. But the best place to play this fixture is the Caribbean. You can come back from training and jump in the pool or go on catamaran, you don't drive past 20 corner shops on the way home with huge headlines outside. I don't feel any pressure.

"We've come into this with the feeling that what will be will be. It was like the last ball match the other night, you come up to bowl it, and the sun will come up in the morning." It will shine brighter, of course, with a million bucks under the pillow alongside you.

Comments