Attack England’s best line of defence, says Jimmy Anderson
England may be five wickets down and 332 runs behind, but that does not mean they are about to give up their gung-ho ways. “I’ve got a fair feeling our best line of defence will be attack,” said Jimmy Anderson. “The way we’ve got ourselves out of sticky situations in the last few weeks has been by trying to put pressure back on the opposition, and I don’t see this being any different. We want to score, we want to move the game forward, and that’s what we’ll try and do.”
The memory of the way Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow played in the second Test against New Zealand is fresh enough that so long as one of them keeps going England will believe, rightly, that they are still in it. India were 98 for five themselves before Rishabh Pant and Ravi Jadeja put on 222 for the sixth wicket.
“We’re in a similar situation to them, and that gives us confidence we can do something similar,” Anderson said. “We’ve all got a job to do down the order, we’ve got to put on some big partnerships and put some pressure back on India.”
It says plenty about the way the second day unravelled that Anderson ended up talking about what he had to do with the bat rather than what he had done with the ball. It is not often a bowler takes five wickets for 60 and still ends up answering questions about whether the bowlers had got it wrong.
“I actually thought we bowled well yesterday morning and into the afternoon,” Anderson said, “and then Pant played an amazing innings. He’s extremely talented, he’s got all the shots and he’s not afraid to play them, so he’s a difficult guy to bowl at.”
You could not say the same of Jasprit Bumrah, though, who has a career batting average of six in Test cricket, but ended up making history when he hit 29 runs in a single over from Stuart Broad. By the time extras were added in, the over ended up costing 35 runs, by far the most expensive in the history of Test cricket. England ended up losing both their openers before they had even clawed those runs back again. Anderson, who was once hit for 28 runs in an over himself by George Bailey, was understandably sympathetic.
“On another day one of those top edges goes straight to hand, and if that happens no one talks about the over. The way it went was pretty unlucky I thought,” he said. “Sometimes it can be easier to bowl to top-order batsmen, I remember a few balls I bowled to Mohammed Siraj today where he tried to hit two out of the ground and then played a perfect back-foot defensive to the next one, so it can be tricky to get into a rhythm against them. You’ve just got to back yourself that your best ball will get them out eventually.”
The question is whether Broad really was bowling his best ball. He had five men back, and was trying to bounce Bumrah out, a tactic which backfired once before when England used it at Lord’s in the second Test last year. “That was the plan Ben wanted us to go with and Broady stuck to it,” Anderson explained, in what felt like a subtle shift of responsibility. “It’s been our ploy to the tailenders all through the summer. Bumrah came out and chanced his arm, hit a few, but we thought it was the best option at that time.”
For all England’s commitment to it, the match is already turning into a stiff test of the way Stokes wants his team to play their cricket.