If cricket needs a Beckham Anderson might be the one

First Test: ECB line up young paceman to promote game after five-star show on debut

Stephen Brenkley
Sunday 25 May 2003 00:00 BST

England's longest summer of cricket was launched yesterday with an emphatic victory in the First Test against Zimbabwe here. It came shortly after 7.30pm when Zimbabwe lost their 19th wicket of a long third day.

England had claimed the extra half-hour to which teams are entitled if a result is in prospect, and there was never much doubt that they would make use of it. They were propelled to their swift triumph ­ the margin was an innings and 92 runs ­ by the first-innings bowling of James Anderson, whose fairytale refuses to end. He took 5 for 73, the last four in a remarkable burst from the Pavilion End of 14 balls for five runs.

The man of the match, however, was deservedly Mark Butcher, who followed his commanding innings of 137 with five wickets in the match. He returned 4 for 60 in Zimbabwe's second innings as they fell to his unmenacing but persistent swing.

The only surprise yesterday was that Anderson did not manage to complete his hat-trick after taking two wickets in successive balls. Perhaps he is saving that up for the next match.

The 20-year-old from Lancashire's star has risen virtually overnight. He made his first-class debut for Lancashire barely a year ago (taking four wickets in the match) and was summoned to the England team from the National Academy when injuries struck on the Australian tour.

He took to it immediately and was one of the few successes of a troubled winter. In the ill-fated World Cup campaign he twice won man of the match awards and his riproaring performance against Pakistan in a day-night game at Newlands was the sort that tends to lift the hearts of a nation. "It's gone so quickly I don't know what to make of it," Anderson said with characteristic shyness after the victory yesterday.

In truth, he was not the pick of England's bowlers. The match was book-ended for him by conceding 16 runs and 17 runs in overs at the beginning and the end, and he struggled for accuracy. But when he got it on the straight and full he was lethal against willing victims.

"We want to promote our next generation of players and would like our own version of David Beckham," said an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman. Presumably the boyish, shy Anderson is a candidate for the role. As the ECB are using the all-girl pop trio, Atomic Kitten (from Liverpool just down the road from Anderson's home town of Burnley) to promote their new tournament, Twenty20, they might not mind either if he was to marry one of them.

In the end this was not one of England's most glorious victories ­ the opposition were much too poor for that ­ but it was clinical. It was also just what was required after being banged from pillar to post by Australia throughout the long winter.

"Duncan Fletcher and I told the boys to be thoroughly professional and not to take Zimbabwe lightly," said England's captain, Nasser Hussain. "Every department of our game was excellent. Today was a long, long day. The boys are exhausted."

Play began at 10.45am under the new regulations governed by Channel 4, the television rights holders. But at least they stuck with it to the end, although the programme schedules indicated that cricket coverage would finish at 6.25pm. On the previous evening they had taken it off the air at 6pm prompt, which meant viewers missed Anderson's first Test wicket.

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