Ashes 2013: James Anderson relishes a home stage finally fit for his talents - Cricket - Sport - The Independent

Ashes 2013: James Anderson relishes a home stage finally fit for his talents

England bowler cautiously hopeful of sealing series at refurbished Old Trafford

Jimmy Anderson and Old Trafford deserve each other at last. One of the most complete fast bowlers in the world will play his first Ashes Test at a ground that is now fit to keep him company.

In the past three years Anderson has emerged as a formidable operator in almost any conditions, a bowler who bears comparison with any of his forerunners. Something similar can now be said of Old Trafford, a ground that had become so weary as an international venue it was on life support.

Anderson's sense of excitement at appearing in a match that returns his home ground to its rightful but long mislaid place on the international roster was palpable, if characteristically understated. On his 31st birthday he was anxious to avoid making England's understandable confidence sound like complacency or to contemplate the winning of the Ashes.

He said: "I think in the past, in the last two Ashes series there has been a stumbling block for us mid-series, so we have to make a conscious effort that we don't look too far ahead. Don't look at the outcome before concentrating on the smaller bits that will help us win that game. We won't look too far past the first hour on Thursday."

In the last two contests, both of which eventually had happy outcomes, England were clawed back after going ahead. At Headingley in 2009 they lost the fourth Test by an innings and 80 runs and at Perth in 2010-11 they went down by 267 runs, for Australia to level the series in both cases.

The tourists' position is rather more parlous now since they must win this match to avoid losing the Ashes for the third consecutive time. At 2-0 down, it is difficult to see how they can bridge the chasm between the sides which became obvious at Lord's last week.

But Anderson has been around England long enough to know their foibles and has played Australia often enough to recognise that they tend not go quietly. "Most of the guys in the dressing room have experience of Headingley and Perth and, hopefully, we can use that so it doesn't happen again," said Anderson.

"It's been tough so far. We narrowly won at Trent Bridge – it was a very close game there. We won more comfortably at Lord's but we still had our backs against the wall a couple of times – we were 30 for 3 each innings. We still have improvements to make and we know how dangerous they can be. Maybe they might be even more dangerous now they have nothing to lose."

Old Trafford, while an incomplete edifice, is unrecognisable from the dreary old stadium that was in severe danger of losing not only its Test status but its reputation. It has been transformed with a £32m redevelopment which perhaps took Lancashire too long to begin but which they eventually undertook with fervour.

Anderson and the rest of the county's players went across the road to Trafford Borough Council's offices in March 2010 to lobby for the redevelopment. It was a dramatic moment but it was to be another year before the proposals cleared their final hurdle.

The result is a ground almost fit for the 21st century. It holds 25,750 spectators and will be full on at least the first four days of this Test. Despite the addition of an imposing new stand and the raising of the old pavilion to ensure it has not been completely dwarfed, the most striking change is to the pitch, which has been moved at right angles.

"It's not too different," said Anderson. "The first couple of games for Lancashire it took a bit of getting used to, it did look a bit odd. It's quite strange saying 'state of the art' and 'Old Trafford' in the same sentence.

"It was getting a bit tired a few years ago and we were very lucky to get the money together to be able to redevelop it as it has been and now it's up there as one of the best grounds in world cricket."

Anderson will probably, though not definitely, choose the Statham End from which to do the bulk of the work, which is otherwise the New Stand End. The pitch looks dry and if it plays as Old Trafford surfaces have in the past few years it will encourage bounce early and spin from around the third day.

Mike Watkinson, Lancashire's cricket director, said that when Old Trafford was overlooked as a venue for the 2009 Ashes it was probably the final kick that the club needed to effect change. "We had sat on our hands for too long but now when people who have not been for three or four years come in they all say how fantastic it is.

"The pitch is on the old square and has the same blend of ingredients. If it stays dry I should think there will inevitably be some reverse swing as well."

England will entertain the prospect of playing two spinners to include Monty Panesar alongside Graeme Swann, but it will probably not go beyond that stage. They will also consider adding Chris Tremlett to the team because of the extra bounce he can achieve which would only disturb Australia more than they already have been.

Equally they have arrived in Manchester off the back of a thumping victory at Lord's and Tremlett has not bowled for three weeks. There is something to be said for the avoidance of tinkering. The biggest concern still revolves around the fitness of Kevin Pietersen.

Anderson has played three previous Test matches at Old Trafford without having spectacular success, the last against Bangladesh in 2010. He is an atypical product in the England team, coming as he did through club cricket at Burnley, where he first played for the juniors and then for the second team.

He performs on a much bigger stage these days but his heart, as Watkinson was willing to emphasise, remains in Lancashire. It would be appropriate if he had a significant influence on proceedings. One day the Statham End at Old Trafford may be joined by the Anderson End.

Home pride: Anderson's record

James Anderson bowling statistics in Old Trafford Tests:

Average 27.10 (overall 29.66)

Economy 3.92 (overall 3.07)

Strike rate 41.4 (overall 57.8)

Old Trafford Tests/Match figures:

v West Indies 2004 1-71

v New Zealand 2008 5-139

v Bangladesh 2010 4-61

Statistics for 2013 Ashes series:

Wickets 13

Average 18.30

Economy 2.70

Strike rate 40.5  

A new look for Old Trafford: how historic venue has turned round

 

England hold a team-talk in front of the new-look pavilion England hold a team-talk in front of the new-look pavilion

 

1. New pavilion This is the centrepiece of the £32m redevelopment of the ground, which staged its first Test match in 1884. It contains new dressing rooms, and also houses journalists in unaccustomed comfort.

2. Dressing rooms Large, comfortable and possessing a plunge pool with its own treadmill – to enable, it is said, Jimmy Anderson to walk on water.

3. Old pavilion A new tier has been added and while it looks slightly out of place it ensures it is not overwhelmed by the conference centre next to it.

4. Rotation of the square To accommodate the changes and resist the effects of early-evening sun the pitch has moved at right angles.

5. New stands Prosaically named the B and C Stands they are still uncovered. But with temporary seating at the old Stretford End, it means the ground now holds 25,750, second only to Lord's.

Stephen Brenkley

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week