Anderson looking for wickets milestone
England bowler five away from the 300 mark as he prepares for third test in Auckland
James Anderson stands on the verge of becoming just the fourth Englishman to take 300 Test wickets, but knows the five he still needs may have to be hard earned at Eden Park.
After soggy stalemates in Dunedin and Wellington, both teams still have a shot in the deciding third and final Test. England through will be without Kevin Pietersen who has been ruled out with a knee injury.
But after mustering just seven wickets in 70 overs so far in this series, the senior fast bowler in the tourists’ current ranks is characteristically taking nothing for granted.
Anderson under-estimated his success to date here, in fact, having fared better than he apparently recalls on an especially unresponsive surface at the University Oval two weeks ago.
“I think two (wickets) is the most I’ve got in an innings on this trip,” he said.
“So that’s the first thing I’ve got to try to do... take some wickets.”
Anderson actually finished with four for 137 for his toils in that first Test, when New Zealand batted just once.
A second rain-affected draw at the Basin Reserve was another struggle, back-to-form Stuart Broad taking the bowling honours to help England enforce the follow-on — to no avail. The omens then are not especially encouraging for Anderson’s bid to make history, on a drop-in pitch which is again expected to favour the batsmen.
Whether he reaches 300 here, or in the return series against the Kiwis at either Lord’s or Headingley, it will be an accurate reflection of the 30-year-old’s elevated status among England’s finest.
“It would be a huge achievement,” he said.
“I’m aware of it. But it’s something, once I get into the game, I won’t be thinking about.”
Anderson will not be distracted either, thankfully, by the niggles in his heel and back which were causing England consternation in Wellington.
He today declared himself fully-recovered from his exertions there, and intent on helping England make it a clean sweep of victories in all formats in New Zealand — to add to their historic Test series success in India before Christmas.
He is not exactly full of the joys of spring just yet, but is confident he has one more big effort in him before resting up for England’s high-profile summer to come.
“I don’t think fresh is the word,” he said.
“But when you’ve got just one Test left, you always manage to find something a little bit extra in the tank — knowing we have got a few weeks off when we get home.
“If we did manage to come away with a win, it’d be a fantastic winter for English cricket throughout all forms of the game.”
A livelier pitch would put a further spring in Anderson’s step.
Although he would be delighted if there were a little more pace and bounce here, he knows the reality is that more graft lies ahead for him and his fellow pace bowlers Broad and Steven Finn.
“That’s just the way things are,” he said. “You have to find different ways of getting people out. You can’t always just steam in and try and roll sides over. You’ve got to use other skills, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do this trip.”
One of those standing in Anderson’s way will be former New Zealand captain Ross Taylor. The middle-order batsman is gradually rediscovering his form after his much-chronicled disagreements with coach Mike Hesson, and exile for the tour of South Africa at the start of this year.
Taylor discounts the suggestion England have somehow not quite been ready for the determination they have encountered from their hosts. “It’s a characteristic of most New Zealand teams,” he said.
“I’d be very surprised if we’ve caught them on the hop. This is a position we haven’t been in for a while... if we can play to our potential we have a chance. Hesson and (captain) Brendon (McCullum) have been very positive in the way they are talking to everyone.”
Anderson is talking a good game too. He is optimistic that there may yet be a little more pace here than elsewhere, as was the case in the one-day international series decider England won last month.
Either way, though, he is ready to earn his rewards. The one-day pitch here was a pretty good cricket wicket — a bit of bounce and pace in it for the seamers, not much seam movement,” he said.
“Test pitches around the world are generally quite flat... it’s no different out here. If we hadn’t had rain in the first two games, there would probably have been a result. So you can’t say these are not result pitches... you’ve just got to work hard as a bowler to get 20 wickets in a game.”