South Africa have proven to be the better team in the series so far
England pace bowler James Anderson has admitted that South Africa have been the biggest threat to England’s world number one Test team ranking by far.
However, even though England are down 1-0 in the series with one final Test to go at Lord’s, Anderson believes that England can still end the series as a tie since they have had experience in dealing with pressure situations before.
While some people may disagree with Anderson, after England were whitewashed in the United Arab Emirates by Pakistan in a Test series, others feel that the pace bowler has a point since England have won seven Test series in a row on home soil.
Anderson noted that England struggled to deal with the conditions in the United Arab Emirates, but at home they were as formidable as any other cricketing nation out there.
“We’ve been playing really well at home, but this is going to be our toughest challenge for a while, but we are still confident going into it. We think we have the necessary weapons to be able to beat them. That’s the way we go into most series; thinking we are going to win,” Anderson said.
Before the Test series started, Anderson knew that South Africa were not going to go down that easily.
“There’s not going to be time to ease into the series. We’re going to have to be on top of our game from the first minute. It’s going to be an intense few weeks and it’s good that they’re not going to be back to back Tests, as it’s going to be really hard cricket. It’s two of the best teams in the world. They are a strong team, they have played well in England before, we lost the last series here to them so it will be really interesting. In the past, maybe, the pressure might have got to me in particular, maybe a few other guys. But now it’s more exciting. You want to play in big games. You want to test yourself against the best in the world, which is going to happen in this next few weeks,” Anderson added.
However, pressure or not, Anderson still knows that his main job for England will be to trouble the South African batsmen early, and hopefully break partnerships as quickly as possible.
“Essentially my job is the same as it has been for the last 12, 18, 24 months. I have to go out there and set the tone, take the first over and try and bowl as accurately as I can for long periods of time. There might be a bit of added pressure because it’s a bigger test for us. And there might be more patience needed as they are renown for being resilient and for soaking up pressure better than most other countries. So we realise that and it’s exciting more than anything as you’re testing yourself against the best in the world. They have four batsmen in the top 10 in the world and it’s really exciting as a bowler to be able to challenge yourself against batsmen like that,” the pace bowler said.
England were hit with selection problems before the series began, as there was a lot of debate over who would be the third fast bowler in the team, with Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan vying for the open spot.
But, the England selectors were unsure whether Bresnan was fully fit before the series, as he had just undergone an elbow procedure in early December.
Bresnan was just one of three England players who were not fully fit and needed injections, with the other two being wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who had a saline injection in both Achilles tendons, and spin bowler Graeme Swann, who was given a cortisone shot for his elbow.
A further concern that England had going into the series was in the catching department, where cricket pundits all across the world had highlighted the fact that the English had wasted many opportunities to get batsmen out early in their innings.
Some critics state that the problem occurred after Paul Collingwood was dropped from the squad.
But the main point was if England were to drop chances against batsmen like Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis or AB de Villiers, their chances of winning would decrease significantly.
“It happens like that sometimes, you go through stages of dropping catches, there’s no science behind it. We practice as hard as ever and go into the match confident of being able to catch the ball. We realise that a spectacular one-handed catch might be a huge partnership breaker and a match-turning thing, so we practise really hard for those situations and hopefully we can hold on to the ball,” Anderson said.
When asked whether the Kevin Pietersen saga would distract the England squad, Anderson dismissed the idea, and said that the only thing on his team’s mind was beating the South Africans and retaining their spot atop the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test team rankings.
Pietersen has been in a heated dispute with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over the fact that he will be prepared to announce his return to limited overs cricket if the board would consider toning down the amount of series that England play within a year.
“Now we’ve met up as a Test side, we’re going to concentrate completely on it and get ready for first thing on Thursday, there’s often headlines around players – some more than others – so that comes with the job. Like I said, that’s left outside our little bubble in the dressing room. We just talk about what we’re going to do on Thursday,” Anderson said before the start of the first Test at The Oval.
With Pietersen and the ECB failing to reach any agreement, the flamboyant England batsman will still not be considered for the upcoming ICC World Twenty20, in which Pietersen has expressed his desire to play.
Pietersen also made a request to the ECB to allow him to play a full season of the star-studded Indian Premier League (IPL), a request that many pundits see as having no chance of getting the green light.
However, this doesn’t mean that Pietersen will not sign a central contract with the ECB later this year, as his desire to play in the traditional Ashes series against arch-rivals Australia, is at an all-time high, even though there is speculation that this series may be his last after he was dropped from the squad for the final Test due to Pietersen’s text messages to South African players during the second Test.
When asked how he felt the ECB were handling the Pietersen issue, Anderson stated that he was content with the way they were taking care of it.
“The ECB have been very good at handling a lot of situations, they’ve got much better in the last few years at handling certain situations. They’ve handled it brilliantly at the minute and I’m sure they’ll continue to do that and I’ll leave them to do that,” Anderson said.
To poke a little fun at Pietersen, Anderson noted that the flamboyant batsman tended to perform better when his name was splayed all over the media.
“Generally when Kevin is making the headlines he tends to play very well. So hopefully he’ll continue the form he’s shown this summer and get us some big runs we’ll need in the middle order,” Anderson said.