Anderson on the brink

Pace­man one away from 600-wicket mile­stone

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Nick Hoult

James Anderson will pull back the cur­tains of his ho­tel room over­look­ing the Ageas Bowl this morn­ing a very ner­vous man in­deed.

Storm Fran­cis is due to hit the area around 7am and linger un­til af­ter lunch, bring­ing heavy rain and high winds to del­uge an al­ready soggy out­field and threaten to wash away his mo­ment of his­tory.

Anderson can only hope enough time can be sal­vaged for him to take one more wicket he needs to be­come the first fast bowler to take 600 in Tests. He moved one small step closer yes­ter­day, tak­ing one for 18 in the 56 overs of play pos­si­ble on an­other damp day.

There is no more Test cricket in the cal­en­dar for Eng­land af­ter this game. A tour of Sri Lanka is mooted in the new year, but Anderson was not picked in the squad the last time Eng­land went there ear­lier this year.

A five-match se­ries is sched­uled for In­dia in Fe­bru­ary but, in this un­cer­tain world, noth­ing can be guar­an­teed. Anderson was left out of the side by the end of the last tour of In­dia four years ago, when he was half fit and in­ef­fec­tive on spin­ning pitches, so he is not ex­actly guar­an­teed his spot.

There is a chance the se­ries could be played in the United Arab Emi­rates, where Anderson ex­tracts re­verse swing and aver­ages 20. But Anderson is five years older than he was the last time Eng­land toured the Emi­rates, and he would pre­fer an empty Ageas Bowl to an empty dust bowl in Shar­jah for his land­mark mo­ment.

Hamp­shire have brought in longer cov­ers for this game to pro­tect the bowlers’ run-ups, which were a prob­lem last week.

There is far more ur­gency from all the of­fi­cials and ground staff to max­imise play, a much more in­tense dry­ing-up op­er­a­tion is ex­pected today, with an Eng­land leg­end on the verge of his­tory.

Eng­land also need to win this

game. The se­ries is in the bag, but the World Test Cham­pi­onship gives ev­ery match mean­ing, and if Eng­land win they will earn 30 points and go past Aus­tralia into sec­ond place be­hind In­dia. The top two con­test the fi­nal next year, if it goes ahead.

Pak­istan are 100 for two and putting up strong re­sis­tance. They looked com­fort­able on a slow pitch good for bat­ting once the new ball wore off and, in cap­tain Azhar Ali, have a se­cure and con­fi­dent bats­man with an un­beaten hun­dred in the first in­nings to his name.

Only 18 overs were bowled be­fore the rain came down heav­ily and the teams did not re­turn un­til al­most 4pm for an ex­tended ses­sion of 3hr 45min. It did not last that long of course. Bad light cur­tailed play just af­ter Anderson had moved to 599.

It should have been his 600th, or even 603rd given four catches were dropped off him in 37 balls. Three were on Sun­day night in the Pak­istan first in­nings and left Anderson with his head in his hands.

The fourth was prob­a­bly the worst, given it was by the wick­et­keeper, Jos But­tler. He did not even lay a glove on a thick edge from Shan Ma­sood in Anderson’s third over that flew straight at him. It may have de­vi­ated slightly, but com­pared to the stun­ners But­tler took on Sun­day evening this was a reg­u­la­tion catch he would take nine times out of 10.

Anderson took it quite well for him, es­pe­cially as his pa­tience had just been tested by over-ea­ger young sub­sti­tute fielder James Bracey need­lessly throw­ing at the stumps and cost­ing four over­throws. Bracey had come on the field for Ol­lie Pope, who had hurt his left shoul­der div­ing on the bound­ary.

Pope had surgery on the joint last year and was not seen again for the rest of the day. Bracey’s pun­ish­ment

One to go: James Anderson cel­e­brates the wicket of Abid Ali, his 599th Test vic­tim

was to spend most of the af­ter­noon at short leg.

Pak­istan were com­fort­able, but gifted Eng­land their first wicket. Ma­sood failed to play a shot at Stu­art Broad and was given out by Michael Gough.

Ma­sood can con­sider him­self un­lucky, with Hawk-Eye judg­ing it to be um­pire’s call. He may have been given not out had he played a shot and it was a lapse in con­cen­tra­tion just af­ter a drinks break.

This was a snap­shot of life over­seas: a flat pitch, and a soft ball do­ing noth­ing. Even Anderson re­sorted to bounc­ers af­ter Abid Ali felt se­cure enough to ad­vance down the pitch at him. Broad had a go at bowl­ing bumpers round the wicket, but on a slow pitch the bats­man had plenty of time to deal with it.

This was a chance for Dom Bess on the kind of pitch he will face this win­ter. He bowled 14 overs and was more con­sis­tent, but lacked real threat, bowl­ing too straight for most of the day. His de­fen­sive fields did not help, and were con­ser­va­tive, given Eng­land had a mam­moth lead.

Eng­land worked hard on the ball and even­tu­ally found some re­verse swing. Abid moved too far across the line to an Anderson in­swinger that struck him in front. Anderson ner­vously watched the review, but it was plumb.

The light was fad­ing and Eng­land brought on Jofra Archer, a gam­ble given the um­pires were twitch­ing. Anderson had one more over, but Joe Root was forced to bowl him­self to pre­vent play be­ing sus­pended. It was not long be­fore it was even too dark for his off-spin.

Mo­ments later the rain started fall­ing and it may not stop in time for Anderson to put the per­fect end­ing on the sum­mer.

An in­tense dry­ing-up op­er­a­tion is ex­pected, with an Eng­land leg­end on the verge of his­tory

Today’s weather fore­cast: Rain, ini­tially heavy, clear­ing af­ter lunch, winds 50-60mph, 20C

Day four score­board

Al­most there: Eng­land bowler James Anderson cel­e­brates his 599th Test wicket af­ter dis­miss­ing Pak­istan’s Abid Ali at the Ageas Bowl

Not an­other one: Jos But­tler drops a catch, the fourth shelled chance off James Anderson

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