On an August evening 39 years ago the first and greatest bowler to take 300 wickets in Test cricket made a pronouncement. “Aye,” said Fred Trueman, when asked if anybody else might achieve the feat, “but whoever does will be bloody tired.”
For most of the day on which Jimmy Anderson became only the fourth England bowler to reach the landmark almost the entire side managed to meet Fred’s expectations. In all but brief spells, England were careworn and lethargic on the second day of the Investec series. They looked bloody tired.
Anderson was all but alone in defying the logic. He bounded in jauntily, not as a man who had bowled 17667 balls to join the exclusive club and often taken a delight in being grumpy while doing so. His crucial interventions at the start of the innings and later when New Zealand were threatening to run away with the opening Test of this mini-series of two, sustained England.
Without him, the second day would have been as uninspiring as the first. It is becoming business as usual. On a long gloomy day England managed to keep in touch but they gave the impression of men who were clinging on to a life raft and not sailing full steam ahead in tranquil seas.
In the morning, far from developing the laborious groundwork which they had put in place on the first day, England wasted it. They lost their last six wickets for 40 runs, unable, unwilling or both to raise the tempo. The pitch remained slow, the newly relaid outfield continued to deny perfectly sound shorts value for money and the New Zealand bowling kept its discipline. Together, these things overwhelmed England.
The tourists’ response was assertive and ought to have been a lesson for their opponents. Falling to seven for two in the face of Anderson’ incisive early spell with the swinging new ball they might have attempted to retrench.
Instead, they did quite the opposite. If it was a bold gamble it was not reckless and the board which had trundled along at barely two runs an over was suddenly being demanded to work much harder. The sluggish outfield responded as if it had been cut from glass. Ross Taylor scored 66 from 72 balls, a complete contrast to anything else in the match, and only when Anderson pinned him in front with a lovely inswinger was relief provided.
Throughout the match so far, New Zealand have played smarter cricket than England. There was every chance that they would be overawed in this Test match, paupers in a palace, but virtually form the moment they lost the toss they have put the squeeze on England. The odds differences between the sides have for the moment been rendered a gross misjudgement by punters.
The second day began with England’s future at the crease, urgently required to perform in the present. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow had what amounted to a clean sheet to write on.
With their county giving the champions Warwickshire the runaround at Edgbaston, it was tempting to run with the old mantra: if Yorkshire are strong, England are strong.
Root looked in fine fettle in his first home Test match, Bairstow was never in trouble. But in common with their colleagues higher up the order they did not actually do very much.
They were to pay for the inaction. England’s innings began to teeter to its doom with one of those pieces of cricketing misfortune. Root received a ball from Tim Southee which was slipping down the leg side and glanced more finely than he intended. B-J Watling took the catch, swooping to his left.
At least this brought in Matt Prior, England player of the year and general go to man. He received a peach first ball – the previous delivery from Southee having been out of kilter with the probing stuff he had supplied for most of the innings – and was understandably beaten by the late movement. It might have only just been lbw but lbw it was.
In the next over Stuart Broad played early and across a full length ball and lbw to Neil Wagner, Graeme Swann offered a regulation edge soon after. Southee brought the innings to end by having Steve Finn lbw and then clung on to a rasping return catch from Bairstow who was trying to plunder some late runs. England had added 72 runs in 32.2 overs to their overnight score. To say that it represented an improvement is not to heap them with praise.
Such a modest total, their third first innings total under 200 in the three recent Tests against New Zealand, needed bowling that was immediately on the button. Anderson, in conditions that he might have ordered to fit, was wonderful.
Struck for four by Hamish Rutherford he followed with a beauty which moved away from the left-hander. Alastair Cook took a sharp chance going to his right at first slip.
Before his opening spell was done, Anderson had Peter Fulton groping forward to one and edging to second slip. This might have persuaded the tourists that their most effective method was to hang in there and survive.
Taylor thought otherwise, aided by inefficient bowling from both Broad and Finn. He drove and more often cut with relish, taking three fours in a Broad over. He was supported by Kane Williamson, from whom much more may be heard in the next few years and who had clearly decided he should play an anchor role.
This outpouring of runs – three an over was a veritable rush – needed to be stemmed and Anderson was the man to stem it. He was bowling with such metronomic accuracy and control that he deserved more wickets. He should have another too but Prior’s rare bad day continued when he dropped a straightforward opportunity with his right hand overshooting the ball which hit his wrist when Williamson edged.
Dean Brownlie was lbw too on review to give Finn a wicket. But the Kiwis were rapidly closing the gap.