Anderson backed to adapt his art
Match-winner James Anderson will be a bowler England continue to rely on - in Birmingham, Brisbane, or anywhere else, believes Andy Flower.
Edgbaston is the next stop on Friday for Anderson, who confirmed Trent Bridge as his favourite international venue with career-best match figures of 11-71 as England trounced Pakistan by 354 runs in the first npower Test.
West Bridgford appears increasingly made for swing - and, as England captain Andrew Strauss and many others have noted over the past week, there is no better bowler in the world than Anderson in such conditions.
Birmingham offers the prospect of another Anderson benefit, thanks to a forecast of more cloud and showers for the second npower Test against opponents blown away for 80 all out in 29 overs yesterday.
But the question being asked of 28-year-old Anderson and the England management is not whether he can torment Pakistan for a second successive week but how he can adapt his skills for this winter’s Ashes in Australia.
There, heat and sunshine are most likely to prevail - and the Dukes ball which hoops around so obligingly in England will be replaced by the less responsive Kookaburra.
England team director Flower is nonetheless convinced Anderson, who averaged a chastening 82 with the ball on England’s last tour to Australia, is a lynchpin of the attack in all circumstances.
“It was a superb performance,” he said of the Lancastrian’s masterclass.
“We know what he can do when the ball swings, and that was a very good thing for his confidence.”
But what about the Plan B, when conditions are less than perfect?
Flower answers one vexed question with another.
“Isn’t that like any bowler? 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 to those different situations.
“He is learning, certainly. He is a better bowler than he was, and he will continue learning.
“He is a very experienced bowler now, and we do rely a lot on him - regardless of conditions.”
England are fortunate to have two other fast bowlers in their frontline armoury who, with contrasting styles, are capable of prospering when Anderson does not.
Steven Finn and Stuart Broad were the support acts behind Anderson at Trent Bridge. But with their extra height, they pose different questions of the batsmen - and Finn in particular concentrates on wicket-taking means other than swing.
Flower was delighted with the 21-year-old’s return to the international stage, after he had been prescribed a strength and conditioning programme rather than match action during the mid-summer one-day internationals.
“I was very impressed with him for a number of reasons,” he said.
“Firstly was 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.
“Considering that was his first over back from his break - a break that had been given a lot of publicity - it was a very mature way to handle it.
“I thought he bowled well throughout the match - and I thought he batted with a lot of nous and composure [in a last-wicket stand with Matt Prior]. Those things all bode well for him.
“He is very mature for a young man. He keeps things nice and simple, he keeps things in perspective which a great position for him to be.”
England currently favour a policy of six specialist batsmen over an extra bowler.
That hand was strengthened in Nottingham by centurions Eoin Morgan and Prior, the former confirming his potential after keeping his place because of Ian Bell’s broken toe and the wicketkeeper proving what an asset he is at number seven.
“They were outstanding knocks, both of them,” said Flower.
“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.
“Prior’s knock was superb as well - in fact, I think that is the best I have ever seen him bat.”
Both batsmen made up for a shortfall in contributions from Alastair Cook at the top of the order, and Kevin Pietersen in the middle.
Flower, agreeing Prior may have found extra motivation after being left out of England’s limited-overs team in favour of Craig Kieswetter, made an observation which goes not just for the wicketkeeper but everyone in the team.
“There is a lesson there - you should not need spurring on to perform at your peak level for England.
“That sort of determination is exactly what we want from our players.”