These are testing times for Jimmy Anderson. The man who prides himself on being the leader of England's attack was reduced to water carrier and net bowler during his country's World Twenty20 triumph in the Caribbean. Now he is being made to search unexpectedly hard for success against Bangladesh on his return to international cricket.
Wickets will come, surely, but left-handed openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes denied Anderson the swift rewards he had envisaged when Andrew Strauss threw him the new ball at Lord's yesterday. Mind you, the boy from Burnley might have guessed that things would not go entirely to plan because it has been that sort of year so far.
True, Anderson bowled beautifully to finish the drawn Cape Town Test with eight wickets before 2010 was more than a week old. But, since then, he has missed out on a tour of Bangladesh for reasons of rest and recuperation following an unexplained knee injury and – much more painful, one imagines – found himself surplus to requirements, to general surprise, in Paul Collingwood's all-conquering Twenty20 team.
Yet, despite the progress made by Tim Bresnan, the promise shown by Steve Finn and Ajmal Shahzad and the re-emergence, at least in limited-overs cricket, of Ryan Sidebottom, it is impossible to overstate the importance of a fit and firing Anderson to England's Test prospects – especially with another Ashes campaign just around the corner. He has shown himself to be a class act, a bowler capable of swinging the ball both ways, and he deserved to be mentioned among the several candidates for England's outstanding player of the year award, even if the gong was always going to spinner Graeme Swann. But, so far as this summer is concerned, there is a bit of rust to shake off, and maybe a little of rethinking to be done. The rust is easily explained. Anderson was bowling well for Lancashire a month or so ago, taking nine Essex wickets in a championship fixture at Chelmsford, while reporting no discomfort from the knee that troubled him on South African soil. Had he gone straight from that game into a Test match then Bangladesh might have found him too hot to handle, but three weeks of net bowling against batsmen going through their range of Twenty20 shots is enough to leave anyone's radar on the blink.
There is a view, though, that while Anderson has become such a clever exponent of swing, both conventional and reverse, he sometimes forgets that keeping it simple is often the best approach. The bowler's former Test captain, Michael Vaughan, expressed just such an opinion yesterday while on duty for BBC Radio's Test Match Special, urging Anderson to try to hit the top of off stump while settling for a spell of controlled bowling.
As it was, the senior member – in Test appearance terms – of Strauss's attack generally bowled too short with the new ball and the nearest he came to success during his first spell was when Kayes edged him high over the slip cordon. More frustration followed afrer a breather and a change of ends, but maybe today will see Anderson back on a roll. It can happen that quickly, as Shahadat Hossain will confirm.
On Thursday, Hossain was among the fast bowlers who, in the words of coach Jamie Siddons, let Bangladesh down. Yesterday, he bowled terrifically well to finish with a five-wicket haul and a place on the Lord's honours board. No wonder the 23-year-old looked chuffed. He had not only righted the wrongs of the previous day but also banished the memory of a nightmare performance at Lord's in 2004 when 12 wicketless overs, on Test debut, cost him 101 runs.