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Is time running out for Anderson?

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NOT for the first time, of course, pace bowling is serving the West Indies well, writes former Test player IAN CALLEN:

FEW could argue against the rationale that it was the West Indies bowling attack that set up the first Test victory, but not before a tense final day’s play at Southampton had been played out. 

What a shame the stadium was devoid of cricket loving supporters for this highly entertaining return to Test cricket.

Jofra Archer and Mark Wood (more on Mark later) were far from impressive in their 1st innings bowling performances and when they took the field in the second innings they were fighting for their careers. 

It was Archer who took the bit between the teeth. His first spell was what you’d expect, it was ferocious. He crushed opener John Campbell’s big toe, forcing him to limp off the field retired hurt, he bowled Braithwaite for 4 and then trapped Brooks LBW without scoring all in the space of four overs.

Capitalising on the mayhem, Wood knocked Hope’s off stump out of the ground with his fourth delivery. This was to be his only wicket.

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Then Chase and Blackwood settled into a partnership that was to lift the Windies’ morale. 

Archer and stand-in captain Ben Stokes kept the pressure on, but in the end it was Jason Holder and the hobbling Campbell who carried the Windies over the line to a 1/0 series lead heading to Manchester.

Holder at 2.01 metres stands tall but is batting too low at No 8. He looked the most composed and technically correct of the West Indies batting list and he’s missing out on big runs where he is batting. He averages 32 and if he wants to strengthen his team, he must bat higher. 

And the best place to start will be this coming second Test, where traditionally the Old Trafford wickets have more pace. 

This will suit the all-round game of Holder and Stokes and encourage pacemen on both sides. In particular veteran Jimmy Anderson. It’s his home ground after all and he knows it well. But will his ageing body hold up and allow him to take that advantage, one more time?

There hardly enough recovery time between the Test matches this series — just four days this time — and this is surely taking a toll on his body. 

Anderson is 37 and approaching his 153rd Test, a long and brilliant career that has yielded 587 wickets, a world record for a pace bowler. But nobody can go on forever. So if he does not find form it is very possible one of these last two Tests will turn out to be his “benefit” match!

If it’s this one, there couldn’t be a more fitting way for this great champion, from the Lancashire League club Burnley to say farewell to the game than in front of his adoring Lancastrian fans.

Unfortunately for English cricket, there is not a lot coming through the ranks good enough to take over from him.

Mark Wood has the pace but is incapable of variation. At Southampton he bowled from the same very wide crease position every delivery except when he ventured around the wicket. But even then, he continued to hit the same footmarks. 

This means his lines (the direction of his deliveries) are the same and he does nothing off the pitch, restricted by his action, so for anyone facing him, it’s “Groundhog Day”.

And this was the difference between the two attacks. The West Indies hit the deck with good seam and extracted movement. It doesn’t matter how good a batting technique you have, late movement off the pitch will bring the best undone.

I was impressed with the 23 year old Alzarri Joseph and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Windies gave the 22 year old Chemar Holder his chance this game, in place of the wicketless Kemar Roach. 

Yes, I know Roach is nearing the 200 Test wickets (only 7 away) and he’s been a great servant for Caribbean cricket. He also bowled economically last time out and at 32, he has time to get other opportunities. But right know he mirrors Gabriel to the extent his angles are the same; whereas Joseph and Chemar Holding will attack stump to stump lines at pace with the ability to move the ball late creating opportunities. This elevates the potency levels of all those bowling in partnership. 

There is a negative of course: inexperience, but man! They’d be raw, fast, exciting and right now, they are the future of West Indies cricket and I’d set them loose.

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If selectors stay with Roach he will have the opportunity to be the first West Indies fast bowler since Curtley Ambrose in 1994 to reach that milestone.

As for England, their batting will be bolstered by the return of Joe Root, from “parental duties” and Stuart Broad’s wicket-taking ability will be needed to give greater variation.

The question remains: can Anderson last?

If not the West Indies could be close to winning their first series in England this millennium.

Can’t wait to see what “Old Trafford” has in store for us.

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Author: Ian Callen

IAN CALLEN is a former Victorian and Australian fast bowler, Test cap No 291.

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