Anderson ready to spearhead attack
New boys Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan chatted with the media ahead of the first Test
James Anderson is cast in an unaccustomed but deserved role this week, as the senior lynchpin of a raw England attack out to overturn uncomfortable statistics.
At 26 and after a winter of overdue consolidation, Anderson’s mission in the first npower Test against West Indies at Lord’s is to set the example for an emerging group of bowlers to do themselves justice.
Should he succeed, England will be on their way to erasing the sequence of first-Test disappointments which now stretches back 14 series.
Victory in the first of only two Tests this summer against these tourists would also put England on course to wrest back the Wisden Trophy lost in the Caribbean this winter.
Anderson, for one, is already talking a great game. “We are aware of the statistic,” he ackowledges.
“It is something we want to change and put right. We feel that if we continue to play the way we did toward the end of the West Indies series - bat the way we did, pile on the runs, bat once - we have the firepower to get 20 wickets.”
To do so, England will need not only Anderson but at least one of prospective debutant seamers Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions - as well as 22-year-old Stuart Broad - to excel at HQ.
‘Father figure’ is some evolution for Anderson, the youthful star of 2003 who was unable so long to reach his potential at the highest level.
Yet it is a mantle which now appears to sit comfortably. “I think for the last couple of summers I have felt a bit of extra responsibility, with ’Fred’ (Andrew Flintoff) not around and when Broady has been coming through, even when Ryan (Sidebottom) is in the team.
“It won’t be anything very different. I have felt the extra responsibility actually helped me - and I feel I perform better with it.”
Anderson’s assistants as England try to set the record straight against Chris Gayle’s men seem likely to include both Onions and Bresnan - with two spinners from a squad of 12 an outside option early in the summer.
Anderson has advice for both as well as confidence in them and Broad.
“Stuart is not very experienced in terms of matches. But he has got the head on his shoulders and he could have played 100 Tests when you speak to him,” the Lancashire seamer notes.
“It is incredible the things he comes up with.
“The two guys coming in have plenty of county experience, and ‘Bres’ has been around the one-day scene. I think we have a good set of bowlers.”
Anderson can also tell Onions that confidence - rather than aggression - is his key. Bresnan, meanwhile, will discover the need for a Plan B when the ball does not swing.
“I would say I am a lot more confident and a lot more aware of my own ability,” the senior bowler confirms.
“In previous years if something has been going wrong I would worry about it. But the stage I am at now, I know exactly what is going on with my body and my action.
“It is a big step for me, learning to bowl with a ball that is not doing much.
“One thing we use when we talk as bowlers is a big thing Glenn McGrath once said which is ‘expect it not to swing’.
“He just bowled the same spot and if it swung then brilliant. If not then it was still a good area. That really helps us keep it tight and challenging the batsmen even when it is not swinging.”
Anderson has had to learn the hard way - and there is no doubt Bresnan has done the same at least once, having been thrashed out of the attack on his home ground by Sanath Jayasuriya as Sri Lanka hammered England in 2006.
“The first time I played I think I was more picked on potential than performance,” the Yorkshireman said.
“I was blown away by it. It wasn’t just me that Jayasuriya got the better of - he took everyone apart.
“But I took a lot away from that series, worked on bowling at left-handers and took a lot of heart out of the fact that it wasn’t just me...Jayasuriya took a lot of bowlers down. He pretty much got a piece of everyone.
“I believe I’m ready now - and I’d like to do my talking on the pitch.”
Belief has come more slowly for Anderson - but England should be encouraged it finally appears to be here to stay. “I am delighted with the way the last 12-18 months have gone for me personally,” he said.
“I have made a lot of progress and found some consistency, which I have been going on about for years. But I don’t want to settle for that - I want to keep improving.”