England duo up there with the best - Saker
James Anderson and Graeme Swann are capable of matching Australia greats Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne - according to England’s bowling coach David Saker.
Using McGrath and Warne - arguably the defining seam and spin bowlers of their era - as a yardstick is not something to be done lightly, but Saker believes the England duo are hitting similar heights.
When McGrath and Warne retired in 2007 they had a combined tally of 1,271 Test wickets, a total Saker’s current colleagues - who currently share 455 - cannot hope to replicate.
But Anderson’s mastery of controlled swing bowling and Swann’s ever-reliable brand of finger spin have played a large part in propelling England to number one in the world, leaving Melbourne-born Saker, who could not break into Australia’s Test side, to talk up their ability.
“When Jimmy and Swann bowl together it is not unlike McGrath and Warnie at times,” said Saker.
“McGrath and Warne in tandem were amazing but I have seen some spells from Jimmy and Swanny that have been just as good or better at times.
“In Sri Lanka (earlier this year) there were a couple of times, especially late on day four in the second Test, when those two reminded me so much of McGrath and Warne. They put so much pressure on the SL batting group and the wickets fell.
“We should be saying our group is as good as them.”
Anderson is currently ranked third in the International Cricket Council’s bowling rankings, with Swann one place behind in fourth.
England also have Stuart Broad in sixth and Tim Bresnan up 10 places to 15th and Saker believes the strength in depth of their attack is also reminiscent of the all-conquering Australia side of the 90s and early 2000s.
“The Australians were stand-out bowlers, a great group for a long time and they also had a world-class spinner. You can compare them,” he said.
“McGrath was the stand-out in that group but they had Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Andy Bichel...they were all fantastic bowlers.
“This group is very skilful too. What they do really well is assess conditions quickly. They will see if it is swinging and, if so, they will stick to our original plans.
“If it is not doing that, they will come up with some other plan. They are very good at talking out in the middle.
“Stuart and Jimmy are very good at that and they pass on that message to the rest of the group.
“They are very skilful – to be able to bowl conventional swing and they say ‘this is not going to work’ and then switch to reverse and attack in different ways – that is a huge weapon to have.”