While much of the talk before the first Test at Lord's was about a new era for English cricket, it was an old sweat who came closest to steering the home side to victory against Sri Lanka.
On a lifeless fifth-day pitch and desperately needing a wicket, Alastair Cook tossed the ball to James Anderson, who delivered his best spell in an England shirt since last year's Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.
Cruising in from the Pavilion End, Anderson produced just enough reverse swing to first get Mahela Jayawardene to nick off behind.
Given that he had reached three figures in his previous three Test innings it was going to take something special to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara. Anderson duly delivered, forcing the silky left-hander to play on courtesy of one that nipped in.
Lahiru Thirimanne followed later that same over, giving Chris Jordan a maiden Test catch.
Then with the match on the line the Lancastrian moved one up the hill to dismiss Angelo Mathews. It wasn't quite enough to steer England to victory, but 4/25 from 19 overs was an excellent return on such a turgid Lord's surface.
50-17-118-7 On the sort of pitch that should make bowlers rethink their career choices, James Anderson deserved Man of the Match.— Alternative Cricket (@AltCricket) June 16, 2014
While nobody was writing Anderson's cricketing obituary following the winter Ashes series, there was certainly grumbling in some quarters following a disappointing return against the Aussies.
A tired-looking Anderson managed just 14 wickets at an average of almost 44 Down Under and looked a shadow of the dominating performer of recent years. So what has changed now?
|James Anderson: Career Record vs. Recent Form|
|Previous 9 Tests Before This Game||9||18||340.2||73||1108||26||4/67||5/122||42.61|
A couple of months away from the game following the Ashes debacle has done Anderson the world of good. The 31-year-old came into the England setup refreshed and in fine form after playing three matches for Lancashire in the County Championship.
The most obvious difference from the winter is evident from the speed gun. Looking like the callow Burnley boy who made his debut in 2003, Anderson regularly topped 87 mph at Lord's. Trying to cope with a late-swinging ball is tricky enough when facing deliveries bowled at 82 mph. Add another five on top and it's an even more serious proposition.
Combine that extra pace with elastic control and the ability to swing, and it augurs well for England followers in the near future.
With 350 Test wickets to his name, it seems only a matter of time before Anderson overtakes Sir Ian Botham as England's all-time leading wicket-taker.
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