James Anderson produced another memorable performance at Lord’s but turned the attention towards England’s “super human” captain Joe Root after he shouldered the batting burden once again in the second LV= Insurance Test against India.
Anderson claimed the 31st five-wicket Test haul of his career as England dragged the tourists back from 276 for three at the start of play to 364 all out.
That ensured him a seventh entry on the old ground’s prestigious honours board, with the first coming all the way back to his Test debut in 2003.
While his efforts laid the foundations of a fightback in a game that could easily have slipped through England’s fingers, the batsmen needed to stand up and be counted for it to mean anything in the bigger picture.
A pair of horrible dismissals in the first over after tea had the vultures circling, Dom Sibley flicking Mohammed Siraj to short midwicket before Haseeb Hameed missed a straight one to mark his return to the side with a golden duck.
That brought England’s only reliable run-scorer, Root, to the middle with Siraj on a hat-trick and the weight of the world on the captain’s shoulders. Not for the first time, he was able to bear the burden.
While Rory Burns fell late on for 49, Root was unbeaten on 48 at stumps and will go again in the morning after taking the score to 119 for three.
“Every time he goes out there he just shows his class. He just looked class from ball one,” said Anderson, as Root eased past Graham Gooch to sit second on England’s all-time run-scorer’s list.
“When you see your captain go out and play like that first up on a hat-trick ball, it does have a really calming effect on the dressing room.
“Joe’s been amazing throughout his career and his stats in the last 12 months in particular, with everything we’ve been through – the pandemic and everything – it’s been super human.”
That description has been used about Anderson plenty of times over the years too. Unmatched as the most durable and most prolific seam bowler in Test history, he continues to lead his side through tight spots and thrives at the home of cricket.
Even at 39 he typically rejects any and all discussions around his longevity, but 18 years after his first five-for here he gave a nod in that direction.
He said: “The last few times I’ve been here you do think ‘is this the last time I’m going to play here?’. Hopefully it’s not my last time here or my last time on the honours board.
“It definitely is as special every time you turn up and play at this ground. To get seven (five-wicket hauls) here is just incredible really. I do love it here. It seems to bring out the best in me.”
Anderson also found time to commiserate with his former Lancashire team-mate Hameed, who has spent five years riding the ebbs and flows of form to get back to the Test arena he first graced as a teenager.
The brevity and brutality of his dismissal was the not the moment he had imagined and it showed.
“It’s cruel sometimes isn’t it?” concluded Anderson.
“He’s worked incredibly hard, done everything right. He’s got a stack load of runs the last couple of years and looked unbelievable in the nets. But cricket can be very, very cruel and I do feel for him.
“He’s got another chance in this game and I’m sure he’ll get another chance in the series to show what he can do.”