Lonely years of toil bring reward for forgotten man
Tuesday 21 March 2006
Among the most abiding images of all England's recent tours has been Jimmy Anderson bowling at a single stump. For over after over, hour after hour, day after day, practice after practice. Just Jimmy, the stump, often plastic, a few balls and a volunteer wicketkeeper.
This ritual has come to assume a strange fascination for observers. Frankly, if Mozart had rehearsed with this precision, his symphonies might have been improved, but where it was taking Jimmy was anybody's guess. He could hardly get a game.
Yesterday, at the Wankhede Stadium, after more than two years of work spanning four tours (and only two of the 15 Tests), the answer was provided. Anderson finished with first-innings figures of 4 for 40, not his best analysis but his most mature bowling, and helped to propel England to a position that had seemed unthinkable.
This, however, did not alone supply legitimacy to the one-stump routine. That came in the 84th over of India's innings, bowled by Andrew Flintoff, after Mahendra Singh Dhoni had hit its first three balls for four and was moving rapidly and frighteningly up the gears.
Dhoni shoved the fourth ball firmly on the leg side and dashed for a single. Anderson, coming in from midwicket to wide mid-on scooped up the ball in his right hand, looked up to be greeted with a familiar sight. All he could see was one stump. What might have discomfited some was normal service for Anderson. He hit it, and Dhoni, after several replays, was adjudged out.
Dhoni's scalp, to add to the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and two others later, made for an auspicious emergency return to the team. Anderson had little to say afterwards. He looks like the lead singer in a boy band, though unfortunately for those seeking soundbites is about a thousandth as loquacious.
But he said enough to reveal that it was his best day in a Test and that being sent back to play for Lancashire all last summer had done him a lot of good because it allowed him to get a lot of overs under his belt. He actually bowled 511 overs in the 2005 season, a third of his career total. Crucially, he was able to groove his bowling in matches. So what he did yesterday was not quite all the product of bowling at one stump.
Ball of the day
* Andrew Flintoff made his first ball count yesterday morning. He produced a lifter that flew past the shoulder of Yuvraj Singh's bat and thudded into the gloves of Geraint Jones. It deserved a wicket, unlike the ball which dismissed Yuvraj five balls later.
Moment of the day
* England fans wondered if they would ever again see James Anderson lead the side from the field. The sight of him doing this after taking 4 for 40 was uplifting for anyone who has followed his career.
Shot of the day
* Everybody loves a tail-ender who swings from the hips and Munaf Patel slogged James Anderson superbly down the ground for four. Anderson did not find it funny, but it brought the crowd to its feet and put smiles on the faces of a few in the press box.
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