Newest member of 300-wicket club to spearhead England for rest of domestic season.
James Anderson’s position as England’s key bowler heading into the Ashes series with Australia was confirmed by his display in the first Test rout of New Zealand.
Anderson’s new-ball partner Stuart Broad grabbed the headlines with a Test-best seven for 44 as New Zealand collapsed to 68 all out and a 170-run defeat with more than a day to spare at Lord’s on Sunday.
Broad though is a bowler who blows hot and cold.
When the force is with him, he can be as unplayable as any of cricket’s greatest seamers.
But too often for England’s comfort he can also produce the kind of wayward spells, featuring a succession of short and wide deliveries, that were evident in his first innings return at Lord’s of one for 64.
It is Anderson, however, who England look to for control with the new ball and he showed why it is so important for the hosts he remains fit for the Ashes with a first innings haul at Lord’s of five for 47.
That return saw Anderson become only the fourth England bowler to take 300 Test wickets, with New Zealand dismissed for 207.
He took two more wickets second time around, with Anderson and Broad the first two England bowlers to bowl unchanged in a completed Test innings since Bill Voce and Gubby Allen skittled out Australia for 58 at Brisbane nearly 77 years ago.
Characterised early in his career as a swing bowler who would struggle if conditions weren’t in his favour, the 30-year-old Anderson has added to his range of skills since making his Test debut in 2003.
However, recent Ashes series in England have seen Australian batsmen struggle against swing bowling and a top order missing retired stalwarts Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey could face a torrid time when the latest edition of cricket’s oldest Test contest starts in July.
“Jimmy Anderson was the leader of this attack, he got five wickets in the first innings and I think he should be coming up to get this man-of-the-match award,” said Broad at the presentation ceremony.
But this win, thumping though it was, provided some comfort for an Australia side bidding to prevent England from winning three successive Ashes series for the first time since the 1950s.
Totals of 232 and 213 are not normally anywhere near enough to ensure as commanding a win as England achieved at Lord’s.
Too often a top-order line-up missing the impetus often provided by the injured Kevin Pietersen ground to a standstill, with none of England’s frontline batsmen either willing or able to hit the admirably accurate Tim Southee off his line.
Before this Test, Ian Bell said he was looking forward to the challenge of batting up the order in Pietersen’s absence.
Yet for all his undoubted class and style, Bell has rarely played the lead role in an England innings.
His scores of 31 and six at Lord’s, albeit the latter was made after a bout of ‘flu, suggested England ought to hope their medical staff’s prediction that Pietersen would be fit in time for the Ashes proved accurate.
Michael Vaughan, England’s victorious captain when they regained the Ashes in 2005, said the form of the top-order would be a worry for current England coach Andy Flower and batting guru Graham Gooch, themselves both once world-class run-getters.
“Andy Flower and Graham Gooch will be concerned that England’s batsmen all average over 40, but keep having these batting collapses,” Vaughan told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special.
“They can’t afford that, as against quality teams they will get hurt.”