Finn: 'Jimmy's exceptional, so consistent with nip, movement and swing'
It was a notable day in Test history. The two-millionth Test run of all time and Jimmy Anderson. By the end of his career, Anderson should finish with around 350 Test wickets, but with the sort of blissful control he showed yesterday he would be worth two million.
He finished the day with a comparatively measly three wickets, taking his tally to 257, but watching him was to see one of the world's master bowlers in action. His England team-mates knew it too. Steve Finn could only stand in awe, hoping that one day he will have such mastery of the ball.
"I've learnt a lot from Jimmy since I've come in to the team especially over the last 12 months," Finn said. "He's an exceptional fast bowler. As a young bowler you can look at him for how he gets his wickets, the places he pitches the ball and how patient he is.
"He doesn't go searching for wickets, he lets it happen and he's as consistent as he can possibly be. Jimmy's an exceptional fast bowler. He knows how to extract the maximum movement, nip and swing in any given conditions. To have him talking to me at mid-off or mid-on, to help me get my mindset right when I'm bowling, definitely helps."
Anderson is a bowler at the top of his game, 30 this year, and not only knowing where he wants to put the ball but able to put it there. The prospect of watching him bowl in England this summer, when there might actually be some help in the pitches, is mouthwatering. The series with South Africa, who have such arch-practitioners as Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, should be a delightful exhibition of the craft.
He had more fast-bowling help yesterday than he has for most of the time this winter. Both Finn and Tim Bresnan were included in England's XI, replacing Stuart Broad, Anderson's familiar new-ball partner who is injured, and Monty Panesar, who was dropped. The selectors were probably going with their gut instinct at last, maybe persuaded by the pitch but also that England's real bowling strengths lie in their seamers.
Anderson made all the early inroads, as he has done so often lately from Adelaide to Birmingham, Dubai to Galle. But Finn and Bresnan, lacking quite his skills, both had wickets by the end of the day and looked as though they might have had more.
"Sri Lanka never really got away from us," Finn said. "Mahela Jayawardene assessed the conditions excellently but I thought as a bowling unit we did well all day. To keep them at two and a half an over was a very good effort."
The two-millionth run in all Test cricket, with top-scorer extras on 117,019, was scored by Jayawardene off Anderson when he edged him for four in the 11th over. By that time 62,432 wickets had also fallen. It would have been cheered to the echo had anybody known.
The travelling English contingent were simply pleased to have got in. There had been all manner of scare stories about oversubscription and duplicate ticket printing but, although there were chaotic scenes outside the ground before play because the P Sara Oval had only one entrance, there did not emerge any tales of utter woe.
Andy Flower, the England coach, got hot under the collar with the match referee after a review decision involving Thilan Samaraweera went against England. But initial reports by non-eyewitnesses of anything more extreme were, as so many of these things are, grossly exaggerated.
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