James Anderson calls early tune against New Zealand on day when swing was king

 

They pray for cloudy weather, they suck boiled sweets and they shine one side of the ball as though their lives depend upon it.

Cricketers will do just about anything – within the laws, naturally – if they believe it will cause those five-and-a-half ounces of red leather to deviate while moving through the air. Even a Nasa scientist, Rabindra Mehta, has devoted more than 25 years of study to the subject.

The debate will continue, but we can all agree that there are few more enjoyable sights in cricket than watching an expert swing bowler practise his art under skies of 50 shades of grey and with the temperature not quite high enough to justify removing your coat.

Jimmy Anderson is perhaps its best exponent, and this match has been a celebration of his skill. On Friday he became only the fourth English bowler to claim 300 Test wickets, and yesterday was another triumph. Three more gave the Lancastrian his 13th five-wicket haul in the long form of the game, and gave England the lead, which they could hardly have hoped for after their sleepy first innings.

Yet Anderson is not the sole master of swing in this game. Trent Boult, New Zealand's highly impressive left-arm seamer, has removed Alastair Cook twice in this match, and four times in as many Tests. Boult won the mental battle yesterday, tempting Cook to drive at a ball that was moving away from him. Dean Brownlie clutched the ball at third slip; Cook swished his bat in anger.

The reaction was telling. Cook prides himself on his ability to break a bowler's spirit through patience and self-restraint. Against clever swing bowlers who possess the same virtues, these battles will sometimes be lost.

For a batsman, the anticipation of swing can become as damaging as the reality. Uncertainty had flowered in the mind of Nick Compton to such a degree that when Neil Wagner brought one back down the slope the opener was hesitant, allowing the ball to sneak between bat and pad and remove the off stump.

But if a batsman can find a way through those spells when bowler and ball beguile them, the rewards are clear. Jonathan Trott and Joe Root did so and built a century partnership, the first of the match and an alliance that could prove decisive.

That's the thing with swing: now you see it, now you don't. Here, you sense, might lie the limitations of this New Zealand attack. Boult, Wagner and Tim Southee, who returned with three wickets late in the day, are skilful bowlers; when conditions desert them, so their weapons are blunted a little.

When the ball isn't swinging a bowling attack can appear predictable, which England cannot be accused of being in this match. With Stuart Broad and Steve Finn, you never quite know what you will see.

Finn is learning but more consistency is expected of Broad, a Test regular for five years. He was as purposeful and accurate yesterday as he was distracted and wayward on Friday, when he bowled too short and was treated without mercy by Ross Taylor.

On the third morning, Broad had practised finding a full length before play and set the pattern for the day by producing a wicket maiden in his first over. The victim was Brendon McCullum, the tourists' captain and probably their most dangerous batsman.

It was the gateway to England's best day of the Test, at least until they lost four wickets for 12 runs in the last hour. When both teams have men who know how to move the ball, it remains very difficult to predict which way the match and the series will swing.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine