James Anderson: 'England bowler fully deserves 400th Test wicket'

By Jonathan AgnewBBC cricket correspondent
Jimmy Anderson
James Anderson finished the day with figures of 2-43 from 13 overs
First Test: England v New Zealand
Venue: Headingley. Dates: 29 May-2 June. Start time: 11:00 BST. Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles, BBC Sport app & BBC iPlayer Radio app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobile devices

The first day of the second Test between England and New Zealand at Headingley produced some brilliant entertainment and a historic moment.

After a wet and miserable start, James Anderson's out-swinger to have Martin Guptill caught at second slip made him the first England bowler to reach 400 Test wickets.

I have seen him take every one, which has been a great privilege. He began 12 years ago as a 20-year-old full of energy, but with a slightly unusual action. You could tell then that he had something, not least the ability to get people out.

What we did not realise was his dedication to becoming a masterful swing bowler - perhaps because he was painfully shy. Over the years, I have come to admire not only his immense stamina, but the work Anderson has done to learn his craft.

There were years in the wilderness, bowling at cones rather than in international matches, and I remember one game in Johannesburg at the end of a tour to South Africa where I thought his career might even be over, so expensive was he after a spell out of the team.

Test cricket's top wicket-takers
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)80013322.72
Shane Warne (Australia)70814525.41
Anil Kumble (India)61913229.65
Glenn McGrath (Australia)56312421.64
Courtney Walsh (West Indies)51913224.44
Kapil Dev (India)43413129.64

But sportsmen deserve most credit when they battle back, just as Anderson has done. He went away and worked out what he needed to do to be successful and it was in the summer of 2008 that he really began to show himself as a spearhead of the attack.

What most sticks out in my mind is a match against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 2010, when he took 11-71 in the match, nearly unplayable in helpful conditions.

Anderson has always liked bowling at Trent Bridge, the home of the great Sir Richard Hadlee. It is high praise for the Lancashire bowler that I am able to draw comparisons between Anderson and the New Zealand great.

However, this first day in Leeds was so action-packed - New Zealand reached 297-8 in only 65 overs - that it was not all about Anderson.

England's struggle

Despite Anderson reducing New Zealand to 2-2, England did not bowl very well.

Some late wickets saw them drag it back a little, but New Zealand will be very pleased to be up around 300 after losing the toss. We already know that England will have to bat well.

England's problem was bowling too short, not full enough to get maximum assistance from the Headingley pitch.

James Anderson celebrates his 400th Test wicket
Anderson is 12th in the list of all-time wicket-takers in Test matches

This comes in the same week as a very good performance to bowl New Zealand out on the final day of the first Test at Lord's, but we must expect inconsistency from this young side. Of the frontline bowlers Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Moeen Ali are all still learning, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do in the pressure of a Test match.

But learn they must, because Australia will take advantage of every error when the Ashes come around.

Even if England are committed to playing aggressive cricket, there has to be a time when they can slow the game down, bowl maidens, dry up the runs.

They were unable to do that today and to concede four and a half runs per over was not in the script.

New Zealand on the charge

New Zealand simply fed off England's inaccuracies, scoring at a remarkable rate considering they were 2-2.

We knew they had to come here and attack in order to win the game and avoid losing the series and they did not disappoint.

The positivity is infused through the side by captain Brendon McCullum, who strolled out and hit his first ball for six, lofting Stuart Broad over extra cover.

When the captain plays like that, the rest of the team have the confidence to express themselves, because they know the finger will not be pointed at them if they fail.

However, you would like to see McCullum give himself a bit more of a chance. Having started so well, he failed to have a look at the first few balls after tea and hit Ben Stokes straight to mid-off.

New Zealand batsman Luke Ronchi pulls the ball for four
Luke Ronchi, at the age of 34, is the oldest New Zealand Test debutant since Tom Puna in 1966

We saw something similar in the World Cup final, when he was bowled in the first over, and you can't help but think he could give himself just a little bit more of a chance, especially with how quickly he scores once he's in.

Still, he has a team of aggressive players and he encourages them to play at full throttle. The Black Caps have set themselves up for a tilt at levelling the series.

More from Moeen

One England bowler who struggled was Moeen, the off-spinner being taken for 48 runs from his 11 overs, including three sixes by Luke Ronchi.

For all the Lord's success of promoting Stokes to number six, it does leave Moeen a little vulnerable if he does not produce the goods with the ball.

Yes, he played two very good innings with the bat but, if he is going to bat at eight, then it is on his bowling that he is most likely to be judged.

Chris Jordan found himself in a similar position on the tour of the West Indies. He was too good a batsman to be batting at number nine, but at that low in the order the batting becomes expendable if you do not perform with the ball.

The same can be said for Moeen, who at least has the luxury of knowing there is no other spinner pushing hard for his place.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Stephan Shemilt.

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