Wednesday 13 December 2017

Cricket: Anderson on the spot to see off dogged Australians

Derek Pringle

With a riveting Test match sending players and spectators into sensory overload on the final morning of drama, was it any wonder that James Anderson did not hear the inside edge he induced from Brad Haddin when Australia needed 15 runs to win the opening Ashes Test?

Fortunately for England, Hot Spot and the stump microphones were able to pick up and confirm the suspicions of Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, whose appeal and subsequent review brought this incredible Test match to a happy conclusion for the home side.

Fate always made it likely that technology would have the last say, given its strong influence on the match. That final process seemed to take an age, though. Finally, with 11 England fielders, two Australian batsmen and 16,000 spectators gazing at the giant replay screen, Aleem Dar changed his original decision and Anderson, after one premature celebration with team-mates, set off with arms splayed wide to celebrate England's victory.

Although the slim margin of England's win does not suggest a yawning gulf in quality between these two sides, in one respect – the use of technology – England were way ahead.

Cook may still be learning his trade as a Test captain but he outsmarted Michael Clarke at every turn in this Test with his use of the Decision Review System (DRS), something Clarke had the grace to accept.

England have not won the opening Test of an Ashes series since 1997, when they beat Australia at Edgbaston, and they came close to missing out again after Haddin's courageous innings, on a nerve-shredding final day, took the Australians to within 15 runs of victory.

Brought back into the Test team to reprise the spirit of the Aussie battler, Haddin came within a couple of his favourite sweep slogs of playing the innings of his life. Australia do not revere glorious failure as much as the English but you could still make an argument for his 71 yesterday being the best innings of the match.

If he deserved better than to be microprocessed by the TV umpire, it was fitting that Anderson should be the man to benefit. But for his four wickets yesterday, Australia's journey from rank outsiders to near favourites would have produced a very different outcome to the one that sees England one-nil up with four Tests to play.

England began the final day with four wickets to take and a cushion of 137 runs, a position that few felt Australia could upset. But that confidence began to wane as Haddin and Ashton Agar began to settle and it was only after the second new ball, taken after 82 overs with Australia on 191 for six, that Anderson rebooted English optimism when he dismissed Agar, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle in the space of 24 balls.

Trent Bridge is Anderson's favourite ground and, with his man-of-the-match 10 for 158 swelling his haul, he has taken more wickets in Tests at the ground than any other bowler. A total of 49 taken at 17.5 runs a wicket is a testament to his ability.

With Australia nine wickets down, the lunch break was extended for 30 minutes or until the last wicket fell.

The tourists required 20 to win as the teams returned from the break to Sean Ruane, the opera singer, belting out 'Danny Boy', 'Rule Britannia' and 'Land of Hope and Glory', in a bid to stir the capacity crowd.

It seemed to work and amid the ensuing chorus of "Oh Jimmy Jimmy", the Terror of Trent Bridge struck to give England first blood in the series.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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