Durban: A trundler in village cricket bowling with cows in backdrop to a pace sensation holding the fate of his nation, James Anderson has come a long way. Drafted into an injury plagued England side on tour to Australia a couple of months ago, Anderson made a quick impression in the triangular series down under scalping 13 wickets in nine games and showed his remarkable upsurge by sinking Pakistan in a critical Group 'A' match.
Anderson burst onto the scene this summer after a good pre-season trip to South Africa where, on decent batting strips he was troubling batsmen with pace. His first international wicket was of Adam Gilchrist in the second match of the tri- series and he then claimed two for 48 against Sri Lanka, scalping champion captain Sanath Jayasuriya. But the baby faced fast bowler has showed his true colours in the World Cup, swinging out nine batsmen in three games including the sensational four wickets against Pakistan conceding just 29 runs.
In a short time, the 20-year-old has got into the good books of his captain Nasser Hussain, who doesn't suffer fools and has all the time for cricketers who can think on their feet. "James has bowled very well in his short career, he's gone from Burnley third XI to regular man-of-the-match awards, but the most impressive thing I saw standing at mid- off is that he has listened to what the coach has had to say and puts into practice everything we've discussed in team meetings," Hussain said. "He is not just bowling well, he's thinking well, too."
Hussain had in mind the delivery that accounted for Yousuf Youhana, who along with Inzamam-ul-Haq was the key to Pakistan's chance of overhauling England's 246 for eight. Haq had departed for a duck, edging a swinging delivery to Nick Knight at third slip from the fifth ball of Anderson's second over. As Youhana took guard and Hussain concentrated on adjusting the field for the final ball of the over, Anderson walked back to the top of his bowling mark and recalled a conversation earlier in the week with coach Duncan Fletcher. "He said a few of their batters were susceptible to yorkers so I just thought I would try it," Anderson explained.
The result of his effort was a delivery, travelling at around 85 MPH, which moved some six inches in the last 10 feet of its flight from the line of leg stump to hit the base of middle. "It came out perfectly," he said with a grin. Hussain was nearly as surprised as the batsman. "I'd completely forgotten about it actually, but Duncan did say that Youhana was prone to shuffle across his stumps early on," he said.
"I was thinking about the field for the new batsman and as I was doing it James just ran in and bowled the perfect yorker." It was a delivery that either of Pakistan's 'sultans of swing', Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, would have been proud of. This time last year Anderson had not made his first-class debut and he is still coming to terms with his rapid progress from being a Lancashire league rookie to darling of England's fans.
"Everything has happened so quick I'm still pinching myself to make sure it's happening, but it is starting to sink in slowly," Anderson said. "In that atmosphere, with the adrenaline going, I don't think I would ever get tired." Nowadays England is going for sheer pace. It has used Simon Jones and Steve Harmison in recent games, and influential voices managed to bend the ear of national coach Duncan Fletcher about the Burnley whiz-kid. Sky TV's commentary team, including ex-England coach David Lloyd, have pushed Anderson's name hard.
Bob Willis, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a Test bowler said, "Remember the name - James Anderson". But it was also interesting to hear what Yorkshire's new Aussie star Matthew Elliott thought about him after Anderson had trapped the left-hander lbw in the Old Trafford Roses match, depriving him of a century on his Yorkshire debut. "I like the look of him - he is quick and can swing the ball as well."