Jimmy Anderson praised the intelligence of the under-fire opener Zak Crawley – and raised an amused eyebrow at some unsolicited advice about hat-tricks from Stuart Broad – as England took charge of the second Test against South Africa in Manchester.
Anderson and Broad led the charge with the ball on the first day of this must-win match, claiming three wickets apiece as the tourists were rolled for 151 after winning the toss and choosing to bat under Old Trafford’s humid and heavily clouded skies. After the rollover at Lord’s in under three days, it was a welcome start.
But it was not until Crawley’s unbeaten 17 from 77 balls, combined with 38 not out from a typically boisterous Jonny Bairstow, that England could be sure of finishing the day with the upper hand on 111 for three, only 40 runs behind. Crawley, England’s most under-pressure batsman, played an innings of uncharacteristic plucky restraint, vital both for his team and his chances of holding on to his Test place.
“I thought he did brilliantly for someone whose output hasn’t been as good as he’d have wanted it to be,” Anderson said. “It was very tricky with the new ball, it started reversing early, and the way he played allowed Jonny to play his natural game. It was a brilliantly intelligent innings.”
Anderson, playing in his 100th Test on home soil and sailing into his fifth decade, was delighted with the atmospheric conditions he was presented with.
“The lights were on, it was cloudy … it felt like not the worst toss to lose. As a bowler, when you see it moving around like that, it’s always great. We know the weather has been pretty average here this last week so it’s been under cover quite a bit and, although it felt hard on top, there was definitely going to be some moisture in there somewhere.
“But you still have to bowl well. We just thought of trying to bash away good areas for as long as possible. I thought we were relentless with our areas after lunch.”
Although he was surprised to find out a few minutes before play started that Ollie Robinson was his partner for the new ball instead of Stuart Broad, he was full of praise for all the bowlers.
“[Stuart] bought into it really well though, came on and bowled brilliantly. Robbo bowled great too and could have easily had three or four wickets in that first spell. It just didn’t go for him.”
Broad provided vital advice on field placing to help Anderson pick up Simon Harmer lbw, as well as sidling up with some words of guidance as his old mate walked back to his mark for the hat-trick ball a delivery later.
“Stuart was at mid-on and he came over and said: ‘When I took my two international Test hat-tricks I went full and straight,’” Anderson said with a smile. “So I was just trying to go full and straight but got my line horribly wrong. I got a bit giddy, trying to bowl it a bit too quick probably.”
There was, though, no praise for the much-maligned 2022 Dukes ball.
“They felt better last week, the one we got today was a very average ball. It was out of shape from 20 overs on but because it was small enough it was fitting through the hoops. It was frustrating, the umpires couldn’t do anything about it because it was fitting through the hoops, every time it got hit it was a different shape … everything but round.”
Broad was more to the point. “The balls are rubbish, to be honest.”