It’s rare that press conferences during the course of a Test match provide great insights into what’s happening in the game. But this, by James Anderson, from the end of day two of the just-concluded Lord’s Test was quite telling.

Some days it hoops round – they’ve been quite rare actually – but when you get the opportunity like that you lick your lips and try to show off your skills. If we bowled like that, with those conditions, we’d bowl most teams in the world out – because we were that good. If we were bowling at our batsmen, we’d have the better of them too. We exploit those conditions as well as anyone in the world.” 

— James Anderson, after his five-wicket haul in the first innings at Lord's

And exploit it, they did. England’s bowling attack exploited the feeble Indian batting line-up at Lord’s, inflicting Virat Kohli’s first innings-defeat in Tests as captain. That the match ended past the cut-off time on day four shouldn’t cloud the fact that this was the third shortest completed Test match (in terms of balls bowled) in England, ever.

At the forefront of that thrashing was 36-year-old James Anderson, who finished the match with figures of 9/43, and became the first bowler in the history of the game to take 100 Test wickets at the home of cricket, Lord’s.

Anderson has plenty of admirers, and a fair share of detractors too. It is, of course, impossible to put numbers to that observation, but one thing can be said with certainty. The detractors’ often claim that Anderson is good when he is allowed to be good: by the conditions and the opposition. It was explored in greater detail on these pages when Anderson joined the 500-wicket club in Tests – he might well be the best England has ever produced.

At his very best

In his own words, these are conditions where Anderson and Co would have made anyone look ordinary – even his own teammates. Over the course of this match, the Indian batsmen looked clueless against Anderson, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say he looked capable of getting a wicket in every one of the 26 overs he bowled. Just like in the first innings, he dismissed both openers in the second as well. And in those dismissals lie the beauty of Anderson’s craft. While the first innings saw M Vijay and KL Rahul get out to perfect outswingers, it was inswingers that did them in on Sunday.

Nothing signified that better than a moment on day two of this Test match. One of those many rain delays that day saw the umpires decide the drizzle was getting a bit too heavy for their liking, just 10 balls after the players had made their way back to the middle. Kohli, the non-striker at that point, had started jogging back to the pavilion when the umpires had a change of heart. When all this was happening, Anderson, bowling the ongoing over, didn’t budge from the top of his run-up. He stood there, the brand new Dukes’ ball in his hand, his hands on his hip, a broad smile on his face. He wanted to keep going, of that there was no doubt.

Boy, has he kept going, so far in this series.

At 36, Anderson is no spring chicken. And yet, in the first Test, his captain had no hesitation in making his strike bowler bowl a long spell either side of lunch on day two. He bowled for more than two hours on the trot, excluding the lunch break in between because he is the leader of this England attack and the onus was on him to deliver. It was partly due to luck that he had to wait till R Ashwin’s wicket to get off the mark in this series, but from there he hasn’t had to do much waiting.

With 13 wickets in four innings, Anderson has brought his A-Game to the Test series and is the reason why England are 2-0 up with an extra day’s rest earned. The old man can clearly take care of his own body.

Worrying for India

If Anderson has been Joe Root’s first line of attack, the Indian response so far has been the butter to his knife. Kohli was gracious to admit England had outplayed India in this Test without using conditions as the excuse (even when Stuart Broad was willing to say England were lucky to be bowling at the best of times).

The fact remains that the Indian batsmen are caught like deer in headlights every time Anderson marks his run-up. Even in the first match at Edgbaston, Kohli – the only Indian batsman so far in this series to bat with any authority – found a way (read: survived, just about) to negotiate Anderson. He made it a battle of survival, and gave Anderson the respect he, in Kohli’s view, deserved.

While Kohli found a way, none of the other Indian batsmen have a clue as to how to deal with Anderson. Vijay and Dhawan showed hints of taking the attack to England’s main man in the first innings of the first Test, something that’s shown to have had an impact on Anderson in the past. But at Lord’s, even that brief resistance was missing.

The openers, who are meant to handle the new-ball bowlers, to help the more flamboyant middle-order batsmen do their thing, have perished early far too often. As a consequence, Kohli has walked out to bat in the middle of Anderson’s first spell three out of four times this series. The only time he didn’t was on Sunday when he couldn’t come out to bat at No 4, because of the time he had spent off the field nursing his stiff lower back. It would have been four out of four times, otherwise.

When even Kohli can only just about negotiate England’s spearhead, the other India batsmen – as things stand – seem to be left with the only option of praying for less Anderson-friendly conditions. A return to form, or changes to technique are options that are currently not on the table, and worryingly for India, Anderson is still fresh and on fire as the decisive third Test looms at Trent Bridge.