Golden-arm Jim lifts England
James Anderson’s Midas touch in the final Test put an added gloss on England’s attempts to level the series against India.
Anderson enjoyed his most authoritative day in Test cricket to date to help the tourists end the third day at the Wankhede Stadium 152 runs ahead with eight wickets intact.
The 23-year-old fast bowler had not played at this level for 14 months but was drafted in because of Steve Harmison’s shin injury.
Anderson’s golden arm made the most of the opportunity, arguably his most crucial breakthrough being the run-out of Mahendra Dhoni shortly before tea.
He also followed the dismissal of local hero Sachin Tendulkar in Sunday’s evening session with another prize scalp, that of India captain Rahul Dravid, to finish with 4-40, undoubtedly his best display given the heat and quality of opposition as the hosts were bowled out for 279, with England 31 for two in their second innings at stumps.
“I guess that would have to be (my best),” said Anderson.
“It has been a while since I played Test cricket, I am pleased to be back and it was nice to get into a bit of rhythm straight away.
“From our point of view we tried to bowl as many maidens as possible and make the batters play more balls than they would really want to.
“Duncan Fletcher just told me to stay as calm as possible and that there wasn’t any pressure on me to take wickets.”
Even so Anderson’s previous performance in Johannesburg, where he looked a shadow of the bowler who burst onto the international scene so spectacularly on the 2002-03 Ashes tour, must have been in the mind.
After that tour of South Africa, Anderson was left to troop the country with Lancashire before earning a recall to the squad for the fifth Test against Australia.
Although he did not feature, he was back in the selection equation and he finished the pre-Christmas trip to Pakistan with a man-of-the-match display similar to the one which made people sit up and take note in the 2003 World Cup.
“I tried to stay as positive as possible when I was out, obviously the season in county cricket did me a lot of good as I needed to get some overs under my belt,” he added.
“Then during the one-dayers in Pakistan I felt my form might be coming back.
“Loss in form and confidence go hand in hand, so maybe it was a bit of both before that.”
After ruining Tendulkar’s record-breaking appearance, Anderson failed to let two dropped catches in one over affect him and was rewarded when Dravid fell to a leg-side strangle.
A zippy delivery, his second in a new spell from the Tata end, flew off Harbhajan Singh’s bat high to wicket-keeper Geraint Jones, who took the most impressive of his trio for the day, high to his right, and Anderson fittingly closed the innings for 279 when he clipped last man Munaf Patel’s off-stump with an in-ducker.
His most significant intervention, however, was the controversial exit of Dhoni, adjudged to be short of his ground by television umpire Krishna Hariharan despite replays proving inconclusive.
Dhoni had just taken three boundaries in a row in an Andrew Flintoff over - the second with the new ball - to move to 64 when he drove to the leg-side and called for a run.
Anderson swooped to his right at mid-on and hit the stumps direct with his throw for Darrell Hair to refer the decision and spark English celebrations.
Television showed that although Dhoni had not broken the crease with his bat as he plunged forward when the ball struck the stumps, neither had the bails been fully dislodged as the laws of the game state.
The situation Dhoni found himself in when he came to the crease dictated he could not play his expansive game from the off, but he had just opened up when his risky single spelled the end.
“It was quite disappointing because if I had stayed for another 10 or 15 overs then I would have scored quickly against the new ball,” he said.
After Irfan Pathan exposed the tail by holing out to deep mid-on off Shaun Udal, it was Anil Kumble and Sri Sreesanth that did that with a frustrating half-century stand.
Udal’s fellow spinner Monty Panesar claimed the penultimate wicket when Kumble was foxed attempting to sweep and was adjudged leg before.
India’s position may have been considerably worse, however, had England held their catches.
Dhoni mistimed a drive to mid-off off Anderson, on 23, but Panesar fluffed the chance to his left and three balls later Dravid wearily guided to gully where substitute Matt Prior grassed a straightforward opportunity.
Dhoni also smacked the left palm of Udal in his follow-through before reaching his half-century from 97 balls.
Once again overs went begging from the allocation as the teams laboured in the heat but there appears enough time left for a result either way after Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell both fell in the final hour.