Twenty-eight overs, one maiden, two wickets for 212 runs. A wicket for every 106 runs conceded, or every 86 balls bowled, and 7.57 runs leaked for every over bowled. Jimmy Anderson’s World Cup figures after three matches. If he bowled all 50 overs, England would – if stats were everything – routinely allow their opponents a total of around 380 for 3.
The England bowlers are on the chopping board with the butcher poised. Stretched by the Dutch, bruised by the Indians, exploded into a thousand little bits by the Irish. And Anderson – yes, Jimmy our Ashes hero – is, on these figures, the man with his head on the block. But, by the power of Greyskull, dropping him would be folly.
Undoubtedly, his performances haven’t been his best. Against the Netherlands in particular, he uncharacteristically lost control, and went for 72 off 10 wicketless overs.
But his bowling against India has been partially misunderstood. His first spell – 5-0-36-0 – was beautiful, as much as you could ask. In his first over Sehwag was nearly caught on three occasions, and in his second he outfoxed the Little Master.
He had the away-swinger shaping, and then would push one into the right-handed batsmen using the natural angle of delivery. Length and line were nearly perfect. That he went for runs was partly misfortune, partly because he was bowling to batsmen who cut the ball from the top of off stump.
Anderson was less impressive later in the innings, but 1 for 91 was no fair reflection. Remember, too, that most of his bowling takes place during powerplay overs or at the end of an innings. (It may be wiser if Anderson finishes his allotment in the middle overs, or ideally, delivers it in one spell at the top of the innings.)
Anderson’s opening spell against India showed why he is so important to England. He is a wicket-taker, the man to bowl unplayable deliveries against the men at the top of the order who are normally the most destructive (Smith, Gayle, Watson, Dilshan, Tamim, Tendulkar, Sehwag). Swing lasts for 10 overs maximum in the subcontinent and Anderson is arguably the greatest exponent of it. Play him you must!
He will go for runs. As Gideon Haigh wrote in the February issue of TWC, one of the main reasons of Anderson’s success in the Ashes was his bold striving for swing at the risk of conceding boundaries. Certainly in the opening overs, he should be doing the same thing. Wickets win matches.
You might think that 2 for 212 will have the opposition thirsty for runs but James Anderson has over the last couple of years acquired respect in the eyes of the best batsman. They know his threat and will be laughing if he is dropped, an act that would signal retreat.
The two Andrews are surely too sensible to do that.
Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant at The Wisden Cricketer. Follow his very occasional tweets @WisdenCric_Benj – he really waits till he’s got something brilliant to say …