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On the Front Foot: Anderson's adhesive attributes with the bat help others sleep well


Among Jimmy Anderson's attributes as a Test cricketer one is easily overlooked. He might be England's fifth-highest wicket-taker and climbing but he is also the country's most prolific nightwatchman.

Anderson has now been nightwatchman 21 times in his 74 Tests. It suggests either that England are keener to protect their batsmen in this era or that they are more often in trouble towards the end of the day. The role is one of Test cricket's more arcane conventions. To the untrained eye it might seem mad: sending out a man whom it is acknowledged is patently ill-equipped for batting to repel opponents who have the scent of blood in their nostrils because they have just taken a wicket.

When Steve Waugh was captain of Australia he all but banned the practice. Anderson first did the job five years ago against India at The Oval. There was a kerfuffle about his summons to bat in Ahmedabad, partly because he looked all at sea against India's spinners and partly because he was out. But Anderson has been out before close of play as nightwatchman only twice, the first also being this year, at Lord's against West Indies. That is some rate of success, since his main mission is simply to be there till the end of the day. Where the role might have changed is in its range.

Anderson has come in between No 3 and No 8, twice protecting Stuart Broad, whereas in the old days a No 8 might have come in to protect a No 3, 4 or 5. Only Chaminda Vaas for Sri Lanka has performed the duty as many times as Anderson, whose average partnership as a nightwatchman is 30.14. The most successful Test nightwatchman in one innings is Jason Gillespie, who went in with Australia at 67 for 1 at Chittagong in 2006 and was still there on 201 not out when the innings closed. He never played another Test.

Beautiful Brabourne

The Cricket Club of India will have been at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, for 75 years next week. The anniversary was marked by talk of playing more Test matches at the venue. It is a charming ground, the Lord's of India in many eyes, and its Art Deco pavilion, all the rage in 1937, is heritage protected.

For more than 30 years from 1948, it staged all the Tests played in Mumbai, or Bombay as it was then. An argument over ticket allocation led the then president of the Bombay Cricket Association, S K Wankhede, to build a new stadium up the road, which was named after him. The Brabourne faded from public consciousness. But time heals, and it staged ODIs in 2006 and made a Test comeback in 2009.

N Srinivasan, the all-powerful head of the Indian Board, has mused on more Tests, which would make sense because the ground (capacity 15,000) would probably be full. Its most famous innings by an Englishman was played in the Ranji Trophy of 1944. Its architect was Denis Compton, who scored a second-innings 249 not out for Holkar (and still lost).

As for Lord Brabourne, he was sent off to be governor of Bengal soon after laying the foundation stone, died in 1939 and he never saw the ground that bears his name.

Not-so-magnificent seven

So far, England have lost seven Test matches from 12 this year. They have lost eight three times: in 1984, 1986 and 1993 (when they had to play the all-conquering West Indies teams and Australia, respectively). They have never lost nine in a year before. And to think they started all this as the world's No 1 team.

Spin it to win it

England were confronted by an opening spin combination yesterday. It has rarely happened before in a Test match. At Kanpur in 1964, M L Jaisimha (off-breaks) and Salim Durani (slow left-arm) confronted John Edrich and Brian Bolus. But some observers say that Jaisimha bowled gentle seam.

So the last occasion may have been the slow left-armer Charlie Macartney and Monty Noble in 1909 for Australia at Old Trafford – but nobody remembers if Noble bowled his seamers instead of his off-spin.