James Anderson: I thrive on pressure now

Leader of England's attack is excited rather than daunted at taking on their great rivals

Whatever the infernal rankings say, the best two cricket teams in the world will be playing at The Oval tomorrow. In the official ICC lists, which have just undergone their annual revision, England remain at No 1 but South Africa, for reasons only an actuary with an algorithm might understand, have slipped to No 3.

Click HERE to view graphic

But make no mistake, these tourists intend to be at the top by the time this risibly short, three-Test series is done, which they will achieve if they win it. So closely matched are the sides in all departments that it will almost certainly come down to small margins, a cameo innings here, a tight bowling spell there, a dropped or spectacular catch anywhere.

In the latter category, England have to do better than of late (see graphic, right). Maybe they have been waiting until this moment, the most significant of the summer, to reach their zenith.

More than any other commodity, the pressure of the moment will dictate most strongly. And it is this, as Jimmy Anderson, the leader of England's bowling attack, pointed out yesterday, that may well separate the men from the boys come late August.

"In the past, maybe, the pressure might have got to me in particular, maybe a few other guys," he said. "But now it's more exciting. You want to play in big games. You want to test yourself against the best in the world, which is going to happen in this next few weeks. Essentially, my job is the same as it has been for the last 12, 18, 24 months. I have to go out there and set the tone, take the first over and try and bowl as accurately as I can for long periods of time."

There will be barely a quiet moment as Anderson knows. While, on the one hand, it is inexcusable, Olympics or no Olympics, that this significant rubber between two magnetic teams at the height of their powers, has been reduced to three matches, it is, on the other, extremely helpful that there is a proper gap between matches.

None of the matches will be back to back when the players of both teams have no time to draw breath before planting stumps in another town. Each of the trio starts on a Thursday and ends on a Monday if not before, with 10 days before the coin is tossed again. "There's not going to be time to ease into the series," said Anderson. "We're going to have to be on top of our game from the first minute. It's going to be an intense few weeks and it's good that they're not going to be back to back. I like that fact as it's going to be really hard cricket, I think.

"There might be a bit of added pressure because it's a bigger test for us. And there might be more patience needed as they are renowned for being resilient and for soaking up pressure better than most other countries."

At 29 and at the peak of his powers, Anderson is as ready for this as he has ever been. His career stats say he has taken 267 wickets at 30.06 but in 35 Tests since the beginning of the 2009 summer he has 150 at 25.86 which is a different kettle of swing altogether.

He still does not take his wickets as quickly as Dale Steyn, the South African who is No 1 in the world, but then nobody does. In his home conditions at this time in his life, Anderson and his chums are ready for this.

While Anderson swatted away questions about the distraction caused by Kevin Pietersen's continuing wrangles over his future (there is no distraction, insisted Anderson), there remain latent worries about England's list of niggling injuries. Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann have all had recent cortisone injections to curb pain in various bodily parts.

"I don't think it's a huge issue," Anderson said. "You get injuries and niggles from time to time and often the best way of dealing with them is injections. I think they're very common throughout cricket and throughout sport. It's nothing that we really worry about." But that holds good only if they all take the field shipshape and Bristol fashion tomorrow morning.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence