ADELAIDE (Reuters) - It took 15 matches over four tours but James Anderson, England’s most prolific bowler, finally claimed his first test five-wicket haul on Australian soil in Adelaide on Tuesday.
It might turn out to be too little, too late but Anderson played a major role in hauling his side back from a seemingly lost cause as England ended the penultimate day of the second test needing another 178 runs to win with six wickets in hand.
At 35, Anderson is having possibly the best year of his career, having picked up 47 test wickets at a miserly average of just over 15.
“Everything’s sort of clicked,” he told reporters.
“I’ve felt in good rhythm throughout the year, bowling as well as I ever have, body’s in as good a shape as it’s ever been.”
After a northern summer spent rattling through the West Indies and South Africa batting line-ups on home soil, it was the Australians’ turn to feel the heat.
Taking the wickets of Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja with an impressive spell during which he swung the pink ball like a boomerang under the floodlights, Anderson was no less dangerous under bright afternoon sunshine on the fourth day.
The right-hander from Burnley had Peter Handscomb caught at third slip for 12, and sent nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (14) and Mitchell Starc (20) packing to finish with five for 43.
The performance, coming off the back of a disappointing first-innings haul of 1-74 during which he tended to bowl too short, showed that Anderson can adapt to foreign conditions.
Even more heartening, he said, was the fact he did it at a time when England were on the ropes.
“Very pleasing, especially considering the state of the game when the team needed it,” he said.
While Anderson does not quite have the pace of an out-and-out fast man, mostly bowling between 130 and 140 kilometres-per-hour, he still offers a stern test for any batsman when combined with his ability to swing the ball.
Anderson, who has taken 514 test wickets at an average of a shade over 27, has often revelled in home tests but has not always been as comfortable in hot and dusty foreign climates, where conditions are not always conducive to swing and seam bowling.
In 14 previous tests in Australia, Anderson had never had better than four-wicket hauls, three of them on the 2010-11 tour when England won 3-2.
He entered the current Ashes series with 43 wickets in Australia at an average of more than 38, in danger of ending his career with a small blot on a generally impeccable copy book.
“People keep telling me I want to retire so I want to show them,” he said.
“I don’t want to think about the future too much. I’m loving playing cricket. As long as I do myself justice I’ll keep playing.”
Reporting by Andrew Both; editing by Ed Osmond