“I have never been in a dressing-room before when we have chased 300 (299) on a pitch that is turning and everyone being so calm, believing we were going to chase them down,” said Anderson. “That for me, after 20 years of playing international cricket, I had never seen before.
“You always get a few jittery people but one to 11 and the staff included were just calm and believed. I think that belief can go such a long way, especially with the young players we have got. We’re trying to develop their confidence and experience, I think that will do wonders for them.”
“‘I think it’s horrible,” he said, speaking from a bowler’s perspective. “I don’t want to think of someone coming at me like that. I thought New Zealand bowled really well to be honest, especially that spell when they got us 55 for 6, it was one of the best opening spells I’ve seen for a long time. But the confidence our batters have got at the moment – they’re fearless and we saw the way they all played. They just want to progress the game, I guess.”
Anderson did, however, suggest that England’s success so far has been largely down to the state of the pitches, and the 2022 edition of the red Dukes ball which goes softer earlier, resulting in several ball-changes in the series, some well before the usual 80 overs were up. He admitted to being “frustrated” watching the previous Test, as players on both sides regularly approached the umpire to check the shape of the ball.
“It was like, ‘get on with the game’! But that’s the real frustration, they go out of shape so quickly, they go so soft, they don’t really swing,” Anderson said. “There’s obviously something fundamentally wrong, something about the ball and it’s annoying to keep on changing it. I’m sure the umpires will be annoyed as well.”
“You have to just keep trusting yourself and tell yourself to bowl your best ball and hope they make a mistake, hope that one of the balls that goes in the air goes to hand, or they nick one or something,” Anderson said, when assessing how to manage with an unreliable ball and an all-too reliable batting surface.
One theory about the lack of movement seen over the last year or so has been the prohibition of saliva for shining the ball. It was initially a temporary measure to prevent the spread of Covid on the field, but it has since been brought in permanently. “Potentially it could be that,” Anderson said. “But I’m not sure it’s ever going to change, certainly in the foreseeable future, because of the Covid situation.” He revealed both sets of bowlers chatted after the last Test, and are very much in favour of bringing saliva back, but appreciated that that time may have gone.
“He is always thinking and talking to the bowlers about different field settings and different ways of getting people out,” Anderson said. “We talk a lot about it in practice, away from the field as well. It is really enjoyable to think outside the box because I’m not that creative. I have always been three slips, gully, cover. Having someone that thinks outside the box like Stokesy and Brendon is really good.
“When it was swinging at Lord’s we had lots of slips in, we didn’t have a backward point. Just trying to get fielders in the eyeline of the batter to put them off and try to make them think of stuff. We have had leg slips in. It is constantly [about] looking for the wicket-taking option.”
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo