Anderson the bright spot in Lancashire's gloom

Essex 215 and 42-3 Lancashire 375 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

Lancashire's joy at the news that James Anderson is set to make his Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord's on Thursday was diluted by the Manchester rain, which stopped them pressing home a winning position and leaves them still waiting to get off the mark for the season.

Their advantage was created in no small part by Anderson himself, with his first-innings hat-trick. Lancashire were, thereafter, always in charge, but the weather has worked against them in all four Championship matches.

After a washout on Friday, only 18 minutes play were possible yesterday before a succession of beefy downpours forced the draw with Essex three second-innings wickets down and still 118 runs behind.

The enforced inactivity meant Anderson, 20, was already turning his thoughts to Thursday and reflecting on an incredible 12 months in which he has been transformed from a club cricketer playing in Lancashire's 2nd XI to England's next big thing. Rewarded for taking 50 first-class wickets last season with a winter at the England Academy, Anderson found himself pressed into the one-day team in Australia and at the World Cup in South Africa, where he was England's leading wicket-taker.

"It's hard to describe how I feel," he said yesterday. "Everything has gone so quickly and this just caps it off. There has been speculation that I would be picked but it is still nice to get the phone call. You can't expect to be in the team until it is actually announced."

Hussain, whose first-ball duck was part of the Anderson hat-trick, was among the first to congratulate the young bowler, who may now have to carry extra expectations with Andrew Caddick absent injured and Andrew Flintoff also a doubt.

"Nasser gave me a bit of a wry smile after I'd got him out and said 'well done, see you at Lord's'," said Anderson who is now expecting a restless night or two. "I'm nervous before any game and I don't imagine I'll sleep much," he admitted. "But I'm usually OK after a couple of balls."

He added: "I'm pretty happy with the way I've been bowling. The rhythm has been there from the start." Indeed, his 5 for 61 against Surrey on his seasonal debut signalled immediately that his form was holding up, and his bowling in this match has confirmed that. The in-swinging yorker that dismissed Hussain was reminiscent of the delivery that removed Pakistan's Yousuf Youhana so spectacularly at the World Cup.

Anderson had his first taste of bowling at Lord's two weeks ago. "It gave me some experience of the slope," he said. "Adjusting to it it didn't present me with any great difficulty, happily."