Justin Vaughan, New Zealand Cricket's chief executive, first made his name in the sport during the Nineties as an astute captain and an all-rounder of limited ability. But he may consider becoming a prophet following James Anderson's five-wicket haul on the second day of the second Test here in Wellington yesterday, a performance that has given Michael Vaughan's side an excellent chance of levelling the series.
The Kiwi Vaughan was one of the many New Zealand administrators staggered by Auckland's decision to give Anderson much needed match practice while England were losing the first Test in Hamilton, and he predicted that the move would come back to haunt the Black Cats. "I'm not very enthusiastic about it," said Vaughan last week. "I can see a scenario where Anderson is bowling to form and then comes into the final Test and bowls England to victory in a decider."
Vaughan's prediction has not fully materialised; Anderson appeared for England a Test before he imagined and so far he has only taken his side to the verge of a series-levelling triumph. But, even so, it was not bad for a first effort.
Anderson took 2 for 96 in the four-day game for Auckland, but he will have benefited enormously from the 38-over workout there. There are few bowlers who can turn up after a period of inactivity and switch immediately into top gear. That is why the England and Wales Cricket Board's decision to give its teams only limited preparation time at the start of every tour is so bewildering.
"The game in Auckland gave me the chance to show the selectors how well I was bowling in a game situation," Anderson explained. "Quite often it is difficult to do that on a tour. You can bowl well in nets but it is never the same. I felt good in the game and it helped me greatly. I have been on quite a few tours now and spent a lot of time running drinks on and bowling in the middle at a stump during intervals but you can't beat match practice."
Anderson made wonderful use of conditions that offered fast bowlers movement in the air and off the pitch by bowling a fuller length than any other bowler in the Test so far. How Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison, sitting in the stand after being dropped, must have wished they had been given similar conditions to work with last week in Hamilton, but you earn your luck in any sport and those two have had plenty of chances.
England supporters would have been nervous about their side fielding such an inexperienced attack in a match of this importance, but by dismissing New Zealand for 198 the bowlers have shown that there will be life after Hoggard and Harmison, and it will not necessarily be worse than before. Tim Ambrose's maiden Test 100 in England's first innings suggested the team are a step closer to solving the wicketkeeping dilemma too.
Anderson is only 25 and he has become an enigmatic figure within the England set-up. When he burst on to the international scene in 2002 English cricket thought it had unearthed a cracker. At his best he is the sort of player every captain wants, a fit, energetic bowler capable of bowling fast away-swingers.
It is a combination that troubles the best and it was too good for Matthew Bell, who was bowled by a beauty, and Jamie How, Matthew Sinclair and Ross Taylor, who edged catches behind the wicket. The less said about Stephen Fleming's horrible waft to cover the better; it was not an aesthetic passage of cricket.
Yet when Anderson's mood is not right, as it has been on far too many occasions in his 21-Test career, he is a huge frustration. He is desperate to succeed and he becomes too emotionally involved with what takes place in the middle, which does not help his bowling. His desire to get in the England side has made him place greater emphasis on taking wickets than bowling well, an approach that at times makes him a liability. Such a bowler offers his captain little when wickets are scarce.
It is hoped that the faith the selectors have shown in him and Stuart Broad, who bowled OK, will allow them both to bowl freely rather than feel the need constantly to impress. Anderson seems to thrive when the big-name bowlers are absent, suggesting that he relishes leading the attack rather than being a support act, as he has been for most of his international career. "It has been mentioned that I am the most experienced bowler in the attack here and this does place a little bit more responsibility on my shoulders," he admitted.
"It is something I think I enjoy. Getting the new ball makes a difference. I have bowled with it all my career and it helps me a lot. I want to be the bowler the captain throws the ball to when we need a wicket, so I want to stake a claim and be here for a long time."
Wellington Scoreboard Day Two
Second day; New Zealand won toss
England – First innings
(Overnight: 291 for 5)
P D Collingwood lbw b Gillespie 65
239 min, 149 balls, 8 fours
†T R Ambrose c Taylor b Mills 102
178 min, 149 balls, 16 fours, 2 sixes
S C J Broad b Oram 1
12 min, 7 balls
R J Sidebottom c Bell b Gillespie 14
44 min, 37 balls, 1 four
M S Panesar c McCullum b Gillespie 6
15 min, 10 balls
J M Anderson not out 0
2 min, 0 balls
Extras (b5 lb15 nb8) 28
Total (107 overs) 342
Fall (cont): 6-300 7-305 8-335 9-342.
Bowling: Martin 20-1-80-1; Mills 30-4-86-2; Gillespie 20-2-79-4; Oram 29-11-46-3; Vettori 8-0-31-0.
New Zealand – First innings
J M How c Strauss b Anderson 7
28 min, 19 balls
M D Bell b Anderson 0
8 min, 6 balls
S P Fleming c Pietersen b Anderson 34
159 min, 93 balls, 2 fours
M S Sinclair c Ambrose b Anderson 9
40 min, 25 balls, 1 four
L R P L Taylor c Ambrose b Anderson 53
127 min, 94 balls, 9 fours
J D P Oram lbw b Sidebottom 8
23 min, 22 balls, 1 four
†B B McCullum c Strauss b Broad 25
36 min, 21 balls, 5 fours
*D L Vettori not out 50
75 min, 42 balls, 7 fours, 1 six
K D Mills c Bell b Collingwood 1
13 min, 10 balls
M R Gillespie b Collingwood 0
9 min, 5 balls
C S Martin b Collingwood 1
19 min, 11 balls
Extras (lb8 w1 nb 1) 10
Total (273 min, 57.5 overs) 198
Fall: 1-4 2-9 3-31 4-102 5-113 6-113 7-165 8-176 9-180.
Bowling: Sidebottom 17-3-36-1; Anderson 20-4-73-5; Broad 12-0-56-1; Collingwood 7.5-1-23-3; Panesar 1-0-1-0.
England - Second innings
A N Cook not out 2
20 min, 19 balls
*M P Vaughan not out 0
20 min, 13 balls
Extras (nb 2) 2
Total (for 0, 20 min, 5 overs) 4
Bowling: Martin 3-2-3-0; Mills 2-1-1-0.
Umpires: S J Davis (Aus) and R E Koertzen (SA).