Anderson ready to take the lead
It is a measure of James Anderson’s status in the England side that his return for the final npower Test is a given.
Fully recovered from the side injury that kept him out of the drawn Lord’s Test and now bowling “pain-free”, Anderson is certain to be named in the team for the series finale at the Rose Bowl starting on Thursday.
If not quite the return of the prodigal son, the value Anderson adds to a bowling attack that struggled for consistency and potency on a benign Lord’s surface means his presence will be warmly welcomed by all but Sri Lankans this week.
Though reluctant to refer to himself as the “attack leader”, as national selector Geoff Miller did when he announced the squad, Anderson insists he relishes the added pressure that comes hand in hand with being England’s most experienced bowler.
“Having that extra responsibility means I’ve got to set the tone when I take the first over,” he said. “I’ve got to lead from the front and set an example for other people to follow.
“Whatever you call it – the leader of the attack or whatever – I’ve felt it for at least 18 months now. That added responsibility and pressure has helped me become more consistent.
“Often in the past when I’ve been injured I’ve been forgotten about, so it’s nice to be talked about and missed in that regard.”
Anderson pinpoints the start of his ascension to becoming England’s premier bowler as the tour of New Zealand in 2007/08 – and, more specifically, the second Test in Wellington.
In the absence of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, both of whom were dropped, Anderson was thrust into the role of England’s most-capped seamer.
He responded by taking 5-73, and seven wickets in the match, as England claimed a series-clinching win. He has rarely looked back.
“I remember a change then,” Anderson recalled. “Hoggy and Harmy missed out and Broady (Stuart Broad) came in.
“That left me as the senior bowler in the side; I had to step up and be more of a leader. I’ve moved on from there.”
The maturing of Anderson has been central to the huge strides made by England in recent years, and he freely admits that his understated manner off the pitch contrasts with his loquaciousness on it.
“I’m a different man when I’ve not got you guys in front of me,” the 28-year-old told the attendant reporters. “It’s a completely different atmosphere in the dressing room and on the field.
“The bowling attack over the last two or three years have made huge steps in being a really consistent unit. A lot of it is down to communicating.
“We’ll be talking to each other as we’re bowling. It’s not just me that’s talking to them – they’re talking to me.
“If I’ve got Broady or Chris (Tremlett) at mid-off, there’s always something being said, whether it’s what the ball’s doing, what the pitch is doing, what certain batsmen are doing. It has all helped us improve over the last couple of years.”
While team-mates may benefit from Anderson’s advice, opposition batsmen have been on the receiving end of the sharper end of his tongue.
He spent much of the winter in a long-running verbal joust with Australia’s Mitchell Johnson, and his dismissal of Ryan Harris at Perth after one such exchange was voted the moment of the year by England fans on Facebook.
"There was an ongoing thing throughout the series with a few of their players, and myself and Johnson was one of them," Anderson revealed.
"There was a big lead-up to that moment. We had been nibbling at each other for a while.
“I’ve always had (an aggressive streak); I’ve never been able to channel it. Often in the past I’ve got quite emotional, lost concentration, been sucked into a battle and not bowled very well.
“What I’ve started to do over the last couple of years, and what I felt I did really well in Australia, was to be able to have a battle with that batsman or two batsmen – and also be able to concentrate and keep calm when it came to delivering the next ball.
“I’ve said in the past I don’t bowl 90mph-plus but I still want to be aggressive as a fast bowler.”
Anderson was “itching to play” at Lord’s, but concedes that an extra week on the sidelines was the most prudent option.
Although rain denied him the opportunity to test his fitness in Lancashire’s Friends Life t20 game against Worcestershire on Sunday, he is confident he will suffer no adverse effects to his first competitive action for almost three weeks.