Ageless English pacer James Anderson says the secret to his longevity in Test cricket lies in cutting down on his time at the nets to save it for the matches.
Anderson’s masterclass was full on display in an awe-inspiring spell of 8-5-6-3 with the new ball as England bowled India out for 78 after Virat Kohli opted to bat in the first Test here on Wednesday.
“As I get older, I feel like I have to work that little bit harder in the gym. I feel like I bowl less in the nets, and try to save it for when it matters in the middle,” the 39-year-old said after the first day’s play.
“The biggest test in Test cricket is mentally getting yourself up for bowling big spells and playing in big games. It’s about keeping yourself switch on through games and switch off when you are not bowling — that’s something I’ve always had.”
Just a week ago during the Lord’s Test, Anderson, having grabbed a five-for in the first innings, was over-bowled in the second as the Indian tail frustrated the hosts with its remarkable resilience and invaluable runs.
“Walking off the pitch during the second Test at Lord’s, pretty much everything hurt, but that gives so much satisfaction knowing that I have put a shift in for the team.”
Asked about his problematic right shoulder, he said: “It still hurts. You just find a way of putting up with it. it’s just part and parcel of the job.”
Anderson said that after all the talk during the Lord’s Test, the aim here was to “shut the noise” and focus on the job.
India took a 1-0 lead at Lord’s riding on the tail-enders’ brave display with the bat followed by their excellent bowling.
“We have made a conscious effort of trying to just focus on us, on what we do well and try and ignore everything else, the outside noise or wherever there might be going on, and make sure there’s a real focus on what we do well,” Anderson said.
He did admit that they had a chat in the dressing room.
“Yeah, I think there was a bit of chat about that. We were just making a point of trying to focus on what we do well.
“I think that you know the first three or four days at Lord’s, we probably played brilliantly and maybe until day three, and then after that, just at times it did affect a little bit.
“We’re individuals, at the end of it. We have made a conscious effort to try and focus only on us, what we do well: try and ignore everything else, the outside noise, or whatever that might be, going on.”
At Headingley, Anderson took off by dismissing KL Rahul with the fifth ball and then deceived Cheteshwar Pujara with an incoming delivery that swung away, but the biggest breakthrough came when he won his mini battle with Indian skipper Virat Kohli.
“I think so (it was special). We have had some great battles over the years. He is someone you want to keep quiet. Especially, in a five-match series, if he gets going he can be very disruptive,” Anderson said of Kohli after dismissing him for the seventh time in Tests.
“I think the way we have bowled to him throughout the series has been very good. We just got to keep doing that and keep him quiet as often as we can.”
In reply, England openers Haseeb Hameed (60) and Rory Burn (52) remained unbeaten as the scorecard read 120 for no loss with a lead of 42 runs after day one.
Rating England’s show as one of the best, Anderson drew parallel with their famous Boxing Day Test in 2010 when they had skittled out Australia for 98 before Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook put on a 157-run opening stand.
“It doesn’t get much better than that. These days don’t come around very often, so you just have to be happy when they do.
“The only difference with Melbourne is that I was keen to bowl there and I wasn’t today for some reason. I was trying to tempt Joe into batting.
“But losing the toss, being asked to bowl and then putting in a performance like that, it doesn’t get much better. We’ve talked about trying to bowl as a unit, as a group, and we just absolutely nailed it. With both ball and bat we’ve displayed exactly what we wanted to do.”
Showering praise on their opening duo, he said: “It was outstanding batting and exactly what we have been asking for.”
“When you bowl someone out for less than 100 you’re never quite sure whether you’ve bowled well or if the wicket is not as good as you think it might be. So to see the way they both went about their business, just felt so calm in the dressing room.
“The way they were so measured, they were solid in defence, left well and put away the bad ball when they got one. I just thought it was brilliant Test match batting.”
Anderson was particularly happy for his former Lancashire teammate Hameed who shrugged off his Lord’s disappointment with a half century.