Headingley has been extremely unkind to Jimmy Anderson. It is as if it senses he is a Lancastrian and reacts accordingly. Six Test matches had brought a mere 15 wickets for England’s most prolific bowler at vast cost.
It is easily his least successful home ground and it compounded its mistreatment last year. For 81 minutes as England fought for a draw he kept Sri Lanka at bay with the bat. There was one ball left in the match when he could only parry a bouncer to gully and was caught.
England had lost the match and the series, Anderson sank to his knees in memorable despair and must have thought: “Bugger Headingley.” He may have presumed that all that would be displaced in the opening stages of the second Test yesterday.
What happened later on during another roistering, curtailed first day will persuade him to return to his previous assessment. Despite being in deep trouble, caused by Anderson, New Zealand carried out in letter and spirit their threat to attack and keep attacking. It was a style that was not in the blueprint of Test cricket when it was originally devised but perhaps should have been.
Anderson became the first England bowler, the eighth fast bowler and the 12th in all to take 400 wickets in Test matches. He did so with the handiwork that has marked his trade for the last eight or so years since his apprenticeship seemed complete.
It undermined New Zealand’s innings at its outset, but it did not curb their deliberate intent. From 2 for 2 with Anderson having produced two away swingers, both peaches, they declined to be restrained by the paucity of their position. Instead, staying faithful to the strategy they have designed – possibly because they never bothered with a plan B in any case – they came at England and kept coming. If another wicket fell, as it did, their response was simply to keep trying to hit the ball, almost every ball, to the boundary.
Brendon McCullum, their captain, both the chief designer and exponent, believes it is the only way they can expect to be contenders. Here, at 1-0 down in the series, he has an extra incentive because getting a move on may be his team’s only realistic hope of drawing level.
But saying this and doing it are entirely different. The primal instinct in Test cricket is survival, or at least an essaying of the scene before going beyond that. New Zealand have developed a mutual trust which comes with an understanding of the risk involved: there will be no blame attached.
By the close of the first day, on which only 65 overs were possible, the tourists had made 297 for 8, going at almost five runs an over. It was possibly the aggression that disrupted England because they had a day in the field to forget, dropping catches – three in two overs – and being generally untidy.
The tourists’ debutant wicketkeeper, Luke Ronchi, personified their approach. On another day he might have been out first ball but his uncontrolled edge flew over slips.
Barely acknowledging his escape, or maybe calculating that this meant it was his day, he went on a rampant stroke- playing spree, punching through the covers, hoisting over mid-wicket, taking a liking to everything but particularly targeting the worrying, fragile off-spin of Moeen Ali.
Tom Latham, the opener, was the rock around whom he played, though England assisted his survival as his innings foundered in its later stages. Having shelled him at square leg, leg slip and first slip when he was in his seventies, they eventually removed him for 84. Ronchi went soon after, pulling once too often.
How England needed that wicket with the Kiwis blazing away. This could not have been foretold when Anderson was operating so effectively earlier on. Play was delayed until after lunch because of heavy rain and England decided to bat, also doubtless recalling the New Zealand collapse at Lord’s.
Anderson induced Martin Guptill to play forward and he edged hard to second slip, where Ian Bell took the catch above his head. He then moved one away from Kane Williamson, who lightly edged to keeper Jos Buttler.
This was the signal for Latham to stick to the script. He drove handsomely through the covers as England rightly pitched the ball up and his side were soon rattling along. By the time Ross Taylor was out in the 15th over they were already on 68. McCullum came in and struck his first ball for six over cover. It was, as most things are with him, breathtaking.
He was stopped before inflicting too much damage by driving the first ball after the tea interval to mid-off. BJ Watling was bowled by Mark Wood but they were not to be diverted from their declared course. It should, once more, be some game.Reuse content