Nottingham: England coach Andy Flower insists James Anderson can be a force during the forthcoming tour of Australia even if conditions are not exactly to the swing specialist’s liking.
Anderson’s latest foray at his favourite Trent Bridge hunting ground saw him take career-best figures of 11 wickets for 71 runs as England thrashed Pakistan by 354 runs in the first Test here on Sunday.
His haul included a second innings return of six for 17 as Pakistan were bowled out for 80, their lowest total against England, and conditions could be equally in Anderson’s favour when the second of a four-Test series gets underway across the Midlands in Birmingham on Friday.
England captain Andrew Strauss believes there is no-one better in world cricket than Anderson when the ball is swinging.
But the charge that has been levelled throughout the 49-Test career of Anderson, who turned 28 during the series opener, is that he goes from lion to lamb if there is no swing to be had.
Both the weather and the Kookaburra ball used in Australia, which offers less assistance than the Dukes brand deployed in England, are set to be against Anderson when Strauss’s men begin their defence of the Ashes in November.
And many an Australian observer will point to the wretched bowling average of 82 with which Anderson ended the 2006/07 Ashes ‘Down Under’.
However, as England lost that series 5-0 it suggests few of Anderson’s bowling colleagues had an Ashes to remember and this time around the likes of now retired batsmen Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist will no longer be in Australia’s line-up.
Flower, speaking here on Monday, preferred to concentrate on the more recent history of Anderson’s latest display, where the Lancashire bowler was still required to maintain an accurate line and length regardless of cloud cover.
“It was a superb performance,” Flower said. “We know what he can do when the ball swings.”
But what if it doesn’t?
“Isn’t that like any bowler?,” Flower insisted. “If (Muttiah) Muralitharan came across a glass-like pitch he would be less effective than he is when he bowls at Galle.
“That is the same for any bowler – they have conditions that suit them more one day than the other. It is important for them to learn to adapt.
“He (Anderson) is learning, certainly. He is a better bowler than he was.
“He is a very experienced bowler now, and we do rely a lot on him -- regardless of conditions.”
Flower was also impressed by the Trent Bridge contributions of Middlesex duo Steven Finn and Eoin Morgan.
Fast bowler Finn, returning from a mid-season strengthening programme, was on target straight away, while Morgan’s 130, his maiden Test century, was made when England badly needed a major first innings contribution from the former Ireland left-hander.
Turning to the 21-year-old Finn, former Zimbabwe international Flower said: “The way he started his very first spell - he was bang on the money six balls out of six and at the end of that first over he got the wicket.
“He is very mature for a young man.”
As for Morgan, Flower – himself good enough to average over 51 with the bat in Test cricket – said: “I thought Morgan’s composure initially when the ball was moving around and then capitalising on the spin in the afternoon was almost a typically perfect Test innings.
“I thought the tempo with which he played his shots and innings was ideal.”