Cow Corner

Anderson a true England talisman

Cow Corner

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Mahela Jayawardene may have grabbed the headlines with a typically masterful 168, but James Anderson became the sixth man to take 250 wickets for England and, in so doing, established himself as a true talisman.

The paceman struck twice in as many balls in the morning session, and once in the evening, to boast figures of three for 56 off 17 overs in conditions which were not conducive to his art and in blistering heat.

Anderson made the crucial double breakthrough in the third over of the morning, sending back Lahiru Thirimanne and key man Kumar Sangakkara for a golden duck before later dismissing Prasanna Jayawardene as England seized the ascendancy.

Indeed, Anderson's third wicket of the day saw him draw level on 252 wickets with Brian Statham - the great Lancashire and England fast bowler.

Given that England selected three spinners for this match, the extent to which Anderson and fellow paceman Stuart Broad tore Sri Lanka's top order apart in the morning session was truly remarkable.

Anderson endured the reputation of being a 'home bowler' for many years - a tag which he has strived to shed for a considerable period of time through sheer hard work and refining the art of reverse-swing and his repertoire of variations.

England's two fast bowlers put the tourists in the box seat with spells of controlled, probing and ultimately potent deliveries - coupled with some pretty insipid batting from the hosts' top order - and confounded the relatively low expectations on them to succeed, given the conditions.

But this blog is not aiming to laud Anderson's performance on day one of the first Test at Galle; rather, the leader of England's bowling attack has reached a landmark which deserves considerable respect and elevates him to a higher standing within the pantheon of fine England bowlers.

Anderson, who made his Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord's in 2003, has now taken 252 wickets at an average of fractionally over 30: the stats of a truly world-class bowler.

Indeed, the Burnley Express is currently positioned at number three in the world Test rankings, behind only South Africa's Dale Steyn and England's nemesis, Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal.

As Anderson has been left to lament of late, reputations are hard to budge; but his performances away from home have improved greatly over recent tours, and he has learned to ply his trade in all conditions and adapt his game where necessary.

Anderson averaged 26.04 against Australia during the Ashes tour Down Under, taking 24 wickets in prolific fashion.

Meanwhile, in a very unsuccessful tour from the team's perspective against Pakistan in the UAE, he performed admirably on slow, low wickets, ending with an average of 27.66.

But everyone knows that, while he has greatly improved his performances away from home, Anderson thrives in English conditions; many visiting batsmen regard him as nearly unplayable at times.

Over the last five years, Anderson averages 25.90 in Tests in English conditions and, still only 29 years of age, the Lancastrian will be the leader of the pace attack for a few years to come.

While this is a fleeting two-Test series in Sri Lanka, England's attentions will swiftly be turning to the series against South Africa - preceded by the visit of West Indies - as Andy Flower's men prepare to lock horns with the world's second-ranked Test side.

Anderson remains a key player for Andrew Strauss and a hugely popular member of the side; it is perhaps time that he was taken a little less for granted and appreciated within the context of the players he has joined with 250+ England Test wickets.

Most wickets:

Ian Botham (1977-1992) 102 Tests, 383 wickets at 28.40 with best of 8/34

Bob Willis (1971-1984) 90 Tests, 325 wickets at 25.20 with best of 8/43

Fred Trueman (1952-1965) 67 Tests, 307 wickets at 21.57 with best of 8/31

Derek Underwood (1966-1982) 86 Tests, 297 wickets at 25.83 with best of 8/51

Brian Statham (1951-1965) 70 Tests, 252 wickets at 24.84 with best of 7/39

Jimmy Anderson (2003-2012) 67 Tests, 252 wickets at 30.32 with best of 7/43

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Samit Patel became England's first Test debutant in their last 19 Tests, since Ajmal Shahzad against Bangladesh at Old Trafford in June 2010.

The portly Nottinghamshire all-rounder took two wickets on his first day of Test cricket, dismissing the dangerous Dinesh Chandimal and later trapping Rangana Herath lbw in what was a memorable three sessions for the 27-year-old.

But, while many England players have fond memories of Galle, now including Patel, Ravi Bopara patently does not.

The Essex batsman bagged a pair at the ground on the 2007 tour, and discovered on the first morning of the 2012 tour that he was not to occupy the number six spot he had so confidently anticipated filling.

Do you think it was the right decision for England to pick Patel over Bopara for this Test? Do you believe the balance of the side is right? Post your views below...

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STAT OF THE DAY: Mahela Jayawardene moved past 2,000 Test runs at the Galle International Stadium as a single venue - making him the first batsman to reach the landmark at two separate arenas (also, 2,697 runs at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo).

ABSURDITY OF THE DAY: With Sri Lanka reeling on 15 for three and thereafter, Strauss stubbornly employed just a slip or two, despite numerous players walking up to him and checking he was aware of the situation. The hosts wrestled back the initiative.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "Samaraweera seems to have been there all day!" The day is just 55 minutes old. Tony Greig is off to an absolute stormer in the commentary box. (@51allout)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: I was surprised at Patel's selection and hope that he justifies his inclusion; three spinners indeed. Years of only one and then, like a number 38 London bus when you wait for ages, three come along together. (The Bounder)

SHOTS OF THE DAY: Ian Bell is given the 'guard of honour' as he swaggers off to the nets with thigh pad in hand...

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