The Pakistan captain, Salman Butt, last night added a little more fizz to James Anderson's celebration by paying the birthday boy a glowing tribute. Then, just for good measure, he gave England's whole attack an early Ashes boost.
Butt was the first of Anderson's five victims at Trent Bridge yesterday, undone by a booming away-swinger. But instead of burying his team after they had subsided to 147 for 9, the left-handed batsman came to praise England's pace bowlers in general and Anderson in particular.
"I think they were wonderful, their lines and lengths were very good," Butt said. "Anderson was the stand-out fast bowler. He was the one who mainly created what happened. The others bowled well, but he was the main one. There are very few bowlers in the world who swing the ball both ways with that much control and at the same pace. It was outstanding bowling."
Butt was asked to compare England's pacemen with Australia's, his team having having faced both attacks in the space of a few weeks. "They are more dangerous in these conditions," he reckoned, spoiling the compliment only a smidgen by repeating, "in these conditions."
Whenever Anderson pitches up at Trent Bridge, it seems, conditions suit him down to the ground. This was his third five-wicket bag in four Tests in Nottingham – the scene of his career best 7 for 44 against New Zealand two years ago. But to strike gold on his 28th birthday, having been dropped from England's Twenty20 and one-day international teams in recent months, was clearly extra special.
"The day didn't start out great," said Anderson, who was dismissed for a first-ball duck near the end of England's innings. "But a few wickets at the end made up for it. Trent Bridge has been good to me the last couple of times I've been here. It does seem to swing at certain grounds, and this is one of them."
Being left out of England's one-day teams must have dented Anderson's confidence. But, more important, it has also underlined to one and all that nobody's place is guaranteed. "There has been a lot of competition over the last few months and a couple of guys were unlucky to miss out this week," he said. "I think that competition is really helpful and it is what you need in a team to succeed. All three of us [Anderson and pace partners Steve Finn and Stuart Broad] know we have to keep putting in good performances to keep our spots. All of us are under pressure because we have a big squad."
England are one wicket away from being able to enforce the follow-on, but they only have seven runs to play with after some late Pakistan resistance yesterday. Anderson, though, suggested the decision to bowl again was not completely cut and dried.
As for Butt, regrets – he has a few. "If we had grabbed the chances that came our way on the first day it might have been a very even game," he said. "That has been the biggest difference."
They might also have saved themselves a wicket yesterday with Azhar Ali declining to use the Decision Review System over a debatable caught behind off Anderson's bowling. Butt insisted, though, that Azhar knew he had hit the ball and suggested a sticker on the side of the bat might have prevented the contact from being detected by TV technology. "Hawk-Eye and Hotspot are not 100 per cent accurate," he said. "It was good sportsmanship by Azhar."