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James Anderson - Master Of Swing

Editor's Pick 07 Dec 2012, 09:20 IST

FILE PHOTO: LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 17: England bowler James Anderson in action during day one of the 1st Test match between England and West Indies at Lord’s Cricket Ground on May 17, 2012 in London, England.

It is often said that Pakistani fast-bowler Sarfraz Nawaz was the inventor of reverse swing. He then passed his knowledge down to Imran Khan, who in turn revealed its secrets to Wasim Akram and Waquar Younis, and from there it spread throughout all the cricketing world. We cannot be sure that’s exactly how it happened, but we do know that in the right hands reverse swing can be a devastating weapon.

At around 4:30 one afternoon in Melbourne in 1979, Australia, seeking 381 runs to defeat Pakistan, were cruising at 305/3 when Sarfraz Nawaz took seven wickets for a single run in 33 deliveries to have them all out for 310, with Sarfraz ending with 9/86. England were 182/3 at the Oval in 1992, before Wasim Akram, 6/67 had them crashing to 207 all out.

Humiliated opponents especially were convinced that such startling results could not be achieved by fair means, and so accusations of ball tampering abounded. After leaving Pakistan in a heap in the third test at Faisalabad in 1990 by taking 7/52 and dismissing them for 102, New Zealand fast bowler Chris Pringle alarmingly admitted to altering the surface of the ball with a bottle cap.

This underhanded act, he related, was against his principles, and he would not have entertained such behavior but for the fact that the Pakistani’s had employed these same foul tactics in the previous two tests. Pakistan were still able to win the third test but the New Zealanders were consoled that it was a fairer contest with both sides engaging in ball tampering.

It would be naïve to dismiss accusations of ball tampering as mere sour grapes. What is not in doubt, however, is that reverse swing is a much sought after skill that is now widely desired in the modern game. Even if the Pakistani’s did not invent it, they deserve credit for identifying and harnessing it. In an age where batsmen dominate and have almost everything to their liking, reverse swing has been useful in maintaining balance.

FILE PHOTO: GALLE, SRI LANKA – MARCH 26: James Anderson of England celebrates taking the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka during day one of the 1st Test Match between Sri Lanka and England at the Galle International Stadium on March 26, 2012 in Galle, Sri Lanka.

So now we come to the current series between India and England. On the first day at the Eden Gardens, James Anderson put on a display of reverse swing bowling that had the Indian batsmen probing and poking and playing and missing. No one was able to play him confidently, and all who faced him were lucky to survive. He ended the day with 3/68 but could have easily snared a few more.

Hiding the ball with his left arm on his approach to the crease – a skill he said he copied from Zaheer Khan – Anderson made the ball talk and had all the batsmen guessing.

Re-entering the attack for his third spell in the 45th over, he immediately had both Tendulkar and Kohli in trouble. The Little Master was totally in the dark during the 46th over when he edged one leaving him slightly just wide of second slip; next over, a similar delivery was diverted by Kohli’s edge into the hands of Swann at second slip, while Yuvraj Singh should probably have returned to the pavilion without scoring when Anderson, bowling from round the wicket, swung one into him that everyone but the umpire thought had him dead in front.

This was a master parading all the facets of his high art and the batsmen were entranced. Removed from the fray after the 53rd over, Anderson returned for the 73rd – for one last fling before the second new ball at the increasingly assured Tendulkar. He required only one delivery, shaping a ball of good length away which Tendulkar edged behind to the wicketkeeper. Anderson later returned with the new ball to remove Ashwin’s middle and off stumps with a delivery snaking in from off to breach his defences.

The three wickets Anderson gathered on the first day did not do justice to the way he bowled. On other days he will bowl worse and take twice as many wickets. If England continue to make good use of an easy paced pitch and a lightening fast outfield, India will have no chance if Anderson turns up in similar form in the second innings.

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