Thursday 26 April 2018

Anderson rolls back the years to claim five-wicket haul

England paceman James Anderson claimed his first five-wicket haul in Australia. Photo: Getty Images
England paceman James Anderson claimed his first five-wicket haul in Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Cathal Dennehy

Exactly 11 years ago, on a warm sunny evening, Mike Hussey eased a good-length ball through the covers to complete one of the most sensational Ashes triumphs ever known.

To this day, the word 'Adelaide' conjures up macabre memories for English cricket fans of a certain vintage. The moment at which defeat was snatched from the jaws of... well, not defeat. The point at which all hope was lost.

The bowler who delivered that ball was a kid called James Anderson.

Yesterday, Anderson returned to the Adelaide Oval and claimed his first five-wicket haul in Australia. He is 35 now, the hair a little tidier, the action a little more refined, the skills sharpened to a point.

And when there is spring in the pitch, moisture in the air, and movement in the surface, there are still few bowlers in the world you would want to face less.

At Brisbane, Anderson, like the rest of England's seamers, was restricted to four-over spells to avoid draining him in the heat.

It may have been the optimum way of using more dynamic bowlers like Jake Ball and Stuart Broad, but Anderson is the sort of operator who likes to work his way into a spell, take his time, sniff a weakness. In more temperate conditions here, he bowled unchanged through the first hour, and it was a sight to watch.

Peter Handscomb barely stood a chance. Anderson toyed with him outside the off stump, drew him forward, made him dance.

Handscomb tried shuffling across his crease, and he tried staying put. Still he could barely middle the ball. The one time he did, getting decent contact on a late cut, Dawid Malan snapped up the catch at third slip.

Later in the day, a moment to send shivers up the spine of any England fan. Mitchell Starc lobbed a catch straight up in the air, Anderson lunged for it, dropped it, landed awkwardly on his right leg.

His trousers were ripped to shreds. He was clutching his hamstring as he left the field.

It was a reminder, perhaps, of just how pivotal Anderson remains to this team, even in conditions that have not traditionally suited him.

This has been one of the best years of his career and, even as he approaches his late-30s, it is still possible to see signs of improvement.

His career bowling average is the lowest it has been since his fifth match: 14 years and almost 500 wickets ago.

And so when Anderson returned to the field in a new pair of trousers a few minutes later, something of England's spirit seemed to return with him. He cleaned up Starc in his first over back, holding the pink ball aloft to celebrate a five-wicket haul. He has also had four potential wickets overturned on review.

Anderson has returned better figures, bowled longer and more probing spells. But if you were to compile a list of his best performances away from home, Adelaide 2017 would have to be somewhere on it. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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