James Anderson has seen almost everything over the course of two decades as an England player, but even he has been taken aback by the transformation that has gripped the Test team in recent weeks.
When it comes to assessing just how revolutionary England’s performances in their 3-0 whitewash over New Zealand were, nobody is in a better position to judge than their 39-year-old record cap-holder.
Anderson first played for his country in 2002 and has lived through more than his fair share of new eras, reboots and fresh starts.
But the spirit of unbridled aggression and unchecked confidence that allowed England to chase down targets of 277, 299 and 296, and score their runs at a fierce rate of 4.54 over the course of the series, has left even him struggling for reference points.
“It does feel that way. I have never been in a dressing room before when we have chased almost 300 on a pitch that is turning and everyone being so calm, just believing we were going to chase them down,” he said.
“That for me, after 20 years of playing international cricket, was something I had never seen before. You always get a few jittery people but from one to 11, and staff included, everyone was just calm and believed. As a bowler, I think it’s horrible! I don’t want to think of someone coming at me like that. But the confidence our batters have got at the moment…they’re just fearless.”
Anderson was speaking ahead of Friday’s rescheduled fifth Test against India, a throwback to the unfinished 2021 series between the teams. The game was postponed just a couple of hours before it was due to begin at Old Trafford last September, with the tourists withdrawing due to a Covid scare.
The more relaxed attitude to the virus is evident in the fact that there are no fears over the fixture now, despite visiting captain Rohit Sharma being a doubt having tested positive.
England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes is also recovering after being struck down at Headingley over the weekend, but he made a successful return to training in Birmingham and will be monitored before a final decision is taken.
Anderson, meanwhile, is eyeing a return to the team after missing out in Leeds due to a painful left ankle.
“I feel pretty good, fingers crossed I can get back in this week,” he said.
“I hate missing games for England, seeing the guys out on the field having a good time. The feeling around the group is so good you want to be around it as much as possible.”
In an ideal world Anderson would also like to reprise the old spit-and-polish approach to shining the ball but accepts Covid restrictions are unlikely to be relaxed.
Players from both England and New Zealand were unhappy with how quickly this year’s Dukes ball lost shape or went soft during the recent Test series, which may have been a factor in the diminished impact of the swing.
Ever since the start of the county season concerns have been raised about the current batch, and the Test series saw countless requests for the umpires to call for replacements.
Anderson feels the old-fashioned idea of using saliva to help create swing could aid the seamers but does not anticipate a shift of approach.
“It potentially could be that (inhibiting swing), but I’m not sure it’s ever going to change, certainly in the foreseeable future, because of the Covid situation,” said Anderson.
“Speaking to the New Zealand bowlers after the games, they would have liked that to be allowed, but I can’t see it happening.
“The real frustration is they go out of shape so quickly, they go soft, and they don’t really swing. There’s obviously something fundamentally wrong, something about the ball, and it’s annoying to keep on changing it. I’m sure the umpires will be annoyed as well.”
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