Posts Tagged ‘James Anderson’

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Consider this.

In the days just before the closely contested Ashes, Andy Murray wins the Wimbledon. Australia’s tactical blunders during the lead-up seem painfully obvious on either camp. It becomes mysterious to note how certain writers, or former cricketers, magically understood and responded to the sacking of Mickey Arthur, and the installment of Darren Lehmann, as an ingenious move towards Australia being tilted as favorites.

The English press doesn’t need an excuse to run tactical, negative campaigns – they take every opportunity to remind the public, and the Australians, about their self-inflicted chaos, unrelenting in their desire to also publish demi-god narratives around Cook and Murray, often providing the much needed humor bordering sledgehammer stupidity.

I suspect that the Australians saw past the outright cynicism being depicted. Handing Agar his debut was a reflection of their experimental attitude, coupled with a huge dose of self-confidence. Or his services for a solitary Pietersen wicket. And England’s choice of Steven Finn over Tim Bresnan, whose statistics at Trentbridge and ability to reverse swing would’ve made him an automatic choice hands down, sent a puzzling message.

The lack in parity to this series’ build-up, given the absence of pyrotechnics involving verbatim mouthfuls that we have so been used to, was nullified by sessions two and three of Day 1. Australia’s bowling wasn’t as portentous as a score of 215 would indicate, rather an obvious display of England becoming victims of their self-aggrandizing stroke decision making had the writing on the wall. And what could pose as a better example than the loose stroke Cook played to unscrew the wheels of his parked bus that fetched him in excess of 700 runs the last times the two teams met.

Peter Siddle

Siddle’s Five-For sparked off the Ashes once again © The Australian

That doesn’t deny the due credit Peter Siddle deserves for his five-for. A game of test cricket is about remaining patient, waiting to exploit the right opportunity and the right time. And that is precisely what Siddle did, inducing the Englishmen in to playing strokes they otherwise wouldn’t have.

It isn’t often that you get a chance to see a frustrated Trott at the crease, his suicidal whiff of the wand outside off-stump ending what otherwise looked a promising, foundation-laying 48. Australia’s plan of bowling straight at Trott reaped few results, with the number 3 batsman happy to work anything around middle-off-outside-off down the leg side.

Only a shot as un-Trottesque as that could’ve sent him back to the pavilion. Chris Rogers would’ve been in his nappies the last time Trott would’ve even thought of playing such a shot. Siddle’s figures would have been a mere footnote had Pietersen and Trott not succumbed to loose shots.

A brief period of counter-attacking batsmanship featuring Broad and Bairstow was otherwise what threw hopes of England posing a decently sizeable total. A momentary lapse in concentration sent Broad back home, followed by a classical Bairstow dismissal – playing all around a straight delivery. England crashed down like a pack of cards placed in front of a table fan.

And so did Australia’s top order. You could’ve been forgiven for thinking that the same sample set of batsmen swapped shirts after seven minutes, and continued their tryst with flaying at deliveries outside off stump. And so did Clarke to the delivery that almost got Finn his hat-trick.

The margins of success between a good and a bad shot played to a ball outside off stump are so inconsiderable that video analyses are unlikely to render anything qualitative. On another day, the shots played by Watson and Cowan could have ended up in the cover boundary. But they played them early, all right. If a naked eye couldn’t spot it, observing how late Chris Rogers played the ball at the other end stood a relative frame of reference. Experience counts.

So does luck. Or brilliance, however you see it. With the initial limelight on Finn and his pace, it took a peach of a ball from Anderson to get rid of Michael Clarke, almost as though the occasion was saved for England’s spearhead bowler to get rid of Australia’s most dangerous batsman. Any hope that Australia harbored on their captain to deliver was smoke-screened by a late out-swinger that kissed the top-of-off. Clarke would’ve fallen victim to that, whether he’d been on 0, or 150.

James Anderson lived up to expectations with a classic out-swinger that sent Clarke back home

James Anderson lived up to expectations with a classic out-swinger that sent Clarke back home

It looks a platform that would require the patience of an archetypal anchorman to crawl through to a hundred. Smith’s unsure methods, indicated by his ‘little boy waiting in a dentist’s room’ nervousness towards the not-so-short deliveries, laid the onus on veteran Rogers, playing his second test, to sail the Australian towards safer shores.

But the old statesman didn’t last long, falling leg-before to a straight delivery from Anderson and knocking of a tally from the review count as he walked back. With Graeme Swann still awaiting a swing of his arms, there seemed every possibility of another wicket falling given the Englishman’s healthy track record of a guaranteed scalp within his first few overs. And that the badly out-of-form Phil Hughes walked in at six.

It makes you wonder the sort of message that is being sent across when a batsman of the caliber of Smith is sent ahead of Hughes. Not to doubt the former’s ability, he is a gritty individual but isn’t considered in the same league of batsmen as Phil Hughes is, although recent statistics won’t point necessarily so.

But to his credit, Smith started looking more assured with every ball faced. He started playing with soft hands, often removing his bottom hand off the grip to place the ball delicately between fielders for quick singles. His determination wins over his not so quaint technique.

And with a day lasting as long as a Djokovic preamble to a serve, a pleasantly surprising feature of an English summer, England hold the edge on a day that would’ve had them made read unpleasant verdicts of themselves during the innings break. What a comeback to spark the Ashes!


 Goutham Chakravarthi

 20 August 2011

In what has been a series that has been played in the right ‘spirit of the game’, England, it was assumed showed great support to the India cause by sending a night watchman in at the fag end of a day where they pummeled close to 400 runs. But, Anderson riled up the Indian high lords by announcing that he had done enough bowling for the series and wanted to bat out the remaining three days and ordered the chickens hiding behind him in the batting order to support him as the senior batting partner in his endeavour to bat out the remaining 18 hours of this Test.

Srikkanth announced that India has summoned Steyn, Morkel and Bollinger into the Indian team based on their IPL performance

Not to be outdone, the Indian chairman of selectors, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, in a radical move announced the replacement of India’s pace-battery in England for the third day’s play with high performing domestic stalwarts. His statement said, “Given the abject performance of the Indian pacers, we have decided to pick a new set of fast bowlers. ECB and the English team are fine by the decision and they laughed off the suggestion saying that replacements cannot be any better than the ones that are here. After a not-so-long deliberation, we have decided to replace Ishant, Sreeshant and R.P. Singh with Rajastan Royals’ Morne Morkel, Deccan Chargers’ Dale Steyn and Chennai Super Kings’ Doug Bollinger. They should arrive in time for start of play on the third day.”

The English press called it “talent poaching” and “highly unethical”. Simon Briggs, covering the press conference for The Telegraph called it “blasphemous” and not even England’s recent poach of the Irish quickie, Boyd Rankin, to play for the English Lions, they claimed, came close to the coup Srikkanth and team have managed to pull off.

To the English uproar, Srikkanth has said, “England have recently poached Rankin of Ireland and made him play for England Lions. If England can pick an Irishman based on his domestic performance for the Lions, so can we!”

England's Irish batsman Morgan could represent India in this Test

Rankin’s former Irish team mate, Eoin Morgan, who happened to be at the press conference to explain why he chickened out and opted for a night watchman was now engulfed in a totally different dilemma post Srikkanth’s statement on Rankin. He wondered, “So, Rankin might get selected into the England Lions side based on his performances for Ireland and Ireland pick him to play against England in the one-dayer based on his England Lions performance. I wonder what’ll happen if I get a hundred batting first for England in that game! Does it mean Ireland will pick me to bat for them when it is their turn to bat?”

When asked for an opinion from Srikkanth on the implications of his decision, he only said, “We might pick even Morgan to bat for us based on his performances for the Kolkata Knight Riders come the fourth day!”

He signed off by saying, “We have ensured that these players will be playing newly selected bowlers for England that they have given me the privilege to pick as a return for the spirit of the game shown by our boys. After careful examination, I have picked these bowlers to play for England based on their county performances: Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, Pragyan Ojha and Murali Kartik. Kartik has been advised to bowl right-arm chinaman.”

 Goutham Chakravarthi

With time, details fade and only memories remain – the sweetest and darkest. Day 4 of the 2000th Test will be remembered for an outstanding spell of 3 for 1 by Ishant Sharma. Sure, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett later conducted an interrogation of India’s top order, but Ishant, in a spell articulating perfect rhythm, when body and mind danced to the heartbeat, composed a telling tune that exposed the English middle order of holes it didn’t know existed.

Ishant looked nothing like the highest wicket taker in tests in 2011 in the first innings. He lacked the rhythm and confidence he exhibited in the Caribbean only a month ago. His rhythm was cranky and Kevin Pietersen bullied him. But, today, Ishant, in a magical spell of fast bowling, his long locks billowing in fresh summer air, his run-up so smooth it was a glide, he unleashed magical, unplayable deliveries. He was in such a trance that the batsmen can be forgiven for being unaware of the ambuscades about him. Whilst it lasted, each ball was poetry that warmed the hearts over and again.

Ishant Sharma produced a memorable spell of fast bowling before lunch

Even cruelly, I thought Zaheer’s absence was a useful expedient to get Ishant to a new level. Ishant had left England in tatters as lunch was taken. Former cricketers of India and England paraded the hallowed turf celebrating the 100th contest between the two countries, while the crowd feasted on the cake and the ale, and the prospect of a potentially cracking test in the making loomed deliciously upon us. But only till India came back on to the park and Raina was introduced to up the over rate!

What followed was a session of some very poorly constructed cricket by the visitors. With only three fit bowlers, the hard yards of the first innings had taken its toll and a determined Prior and Broad ran them ragged. From the Himalayan heights of titanic struggle between bat and ball, it turned to a contest of India doing the last stage of Tour de France by foot and England by motorcade. England ran the fielders and captain ragged and when the bowlers returned with fresh legs, they had already been lapped twice over by the English. Prior will get his opportunity at 6 should England struggle to bowl India out on day 5 and feel the need to go with five bowlers. His century was well constructed with almost a Usain Bolt sprint to the finish line.

Injury and illness to Gambhir and Tendulkar meant Indian had to go in with a re-jigged batting order. Facing a rampant trio of English quicks who fancied their chances against a tired batting side, they bent and bounced the ball in rapid cadence. Old hands Dravid and Laxman, architects of some of the stoutest batting accomplishments, battled and survived. It was exhilarating cricket. The old firm of Dravid and Laxman held fort for India to fight another day. Their methods so precise and contrasting, but complement each other.

Sophistication is easy to be associated with Dravid – who combines the technical mastery of his art to suit the wicket and the opposition, the situation of a drying wicket and the waning strengths of opposition trundlers. He plays the attrition game as well as anyone to have walked a cricket pitch and his powers of concentration are of a Grand Master. On the other hand, Laxman, India’s best 3rd and 4th Innings man is as intense but with a game so pleasing, it makes you wonder if batting was ever so pretty anywhere else. He can look clumsy in his set-up and dodgy wafting without much feet movement early, but he can hardly ever made an ugly run. It is almost fitting that he produces his best when his team needs it the most.

Anderson, Tremlett, Broad and Swan will believe that there is enough in the wicket to produce nine mistakes on day 5, but India will be confident that they can survive the overs. It quite resembles the Lord’s test from 2007 and it promises to be as tight this time too. England have dominated this test, but India have shown tremendous determination to be not blown away. They will hope the D/L (Dravid/Laxman) method saves this test for them.

Bring on day 5.