Lead fast bowler also opens up on England’s rotation policy
Reverse-swing was a key factor in England’s victory in the first Test of their series in India, but James Anderson does not expect it to play much of a role under the Ahmedabad floodlights in Wednesday’s third Test.
Anderson missed England’s 317-run defeat in the second Test, with the team’s management opting to rotate him to keep him fresh for the day-night match at the new Motera stadium, and as such has had plenty of time to examine the pink SG ball in the nets over the past two weeks.
He suggested on Sunday that there was little discernible difference between the pink SG and the Dukes and Kookaburra equivalents that he has used previously in Tests, and that the extra lacquer on the ball means it is likely to stay hard for a longer period of time.
“It doesn’t feel a lot different [to other brands of pink ball],” Anderson said. “What we have found with all the pink balls, it seems like they have an extra bit of lacquer on them so it feels a bit more plastic, the coating, rather than on the red ball where you can feel the leather. It feels very similar to the Dukes in the hand.
“I think we will be unlikely to see reverse. It depends on the pitch – if the pitch is really abrasive you might see a bit of reverse, but from how we’ve bowled it in the nets I would be very surprised if it does reverse. It may well stay a bit harder for longer. We’ll have to wait and see how it reacts after 40-50 overs.”
England have been using various pink balls in training – including some that are “really old” – to tune up for their first day-night Test in nearly three years, but Anderson suggested that their initial plans will be similar to their standard new-ball approach with the red ball.
“I don’t think we’ll bowl any differently to how we normally bowl with the red ball,” he said. “We’ll be assessing conditions as we do and bowl accordingly. If it’s swinging around we’ll be more attacking, bowl a fuller length, have extra catchers in. If not, we’ll go a little bit more defensive.
“It’s all about assessing the conditions. We’ve got a couple of balls that are really old we’ve been practising with that are doing absolutely nothing and I think it’s important we do that because you still need the option of taking wickets when it’s not swinging around.
“We’re trying to cover all bases and know what we’re going to do if it doesn’t swing. If it does swing, yes, potentially we’ll bowl those slightly more attacking lines and lengths.”
England’s decision to keep Anderson fresh for the third Test was doubtless informed by his impressive record in his three day-night appearances to date, in which he has taken 14 wickets at 17.85. As per the global trend, he has enjoyed bowling in twilight, when batsmen have to re-adjust their eyes, and said that he was relishing the chance to play a game under floodlights, given how little one-day cricket he now plays.
“For us old guys who don’t have the chance to play white-ball cricket any more it’s a chance to play under lights again. I just feel it’s something a little bit different – it’s quite special playing cricket under lights.
“There is not a difference in how it [the ball] behaves as such. The difficulty will be adjusting the eyes to different lights. Twilight, the guys have said has been a bit tricky. We’ve found that in all the [day-night] Tests we have played, whether in England, Australia or New Zealand. It does take that bit of time to get used to as the light fades and the floodlights take over from the natural light.
“I saw the pitch over the last couple of days and it’s got a lot of grass on it but I can see a lot of red soil underneath which says to me it could well spin if they take a bit of grass off. All the seam bowlers want really is a bit of carry, which we haven’t really had throughout the series. We’re keeping our fingers crossed there’s a bit more in it for the seamers.”
Anderson also admitted that he did find it “frustrating” to have been rested for the second Test after his impressive performance in the first, but said that he could “see the bigger picture” given England’s packed schedule in 2021.
“The idea was if I missed that one, that would give me the best chance of being fit and firing for the pink-ball Test,” he said. “So that’s where I am at, at the minute: I am feeling good and fresh and ready to go again if called upon. It’s hopefully going to keep me going for longer, and Stuart [Broad] has said the same too.
“I’ve seen the last couple of years – 2019, when I missed the Ashes, and the start of 2020, when I got an injury in South Africa – [that] when the workload goes up – and it’s the same for all bowlers not just me – those injuries do happen.
“We’ve got 17 Test matches this year and the best way of getting your best players firing for as many of those as possible is to take little rests every now and then it’s just a case of trying to make sure you’re not wearing someone out until they completely break in half.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98