James Anderson and Graeme Swann have been compared to Australia greats Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne by England’s Australian bowling coach David Saker.
McGrath and Warne were the outstanding seam and spin bowlers of their generation, with leg-spinner Warne widely regarded as being worthy of a place among cricket’s greatest players.
Yet Saker insists the way in which paceman Anderson and off-spinner Swann bowl in tandem is reminiscent of the celebrated McGrath/Warne combination. Even though the England duo, who currently have 455 Test wickets between them, are unlikely to match the combined tally of 1,271 the Australians bowed out with when they retired in 2007.
However, there is no denying the work of attack leader Anderson and Swann, usually the lone specialist spinner, in England’s rise to No.1 in the world Test rankings — a position cemented with a nine-wicket, series-clinching, win over the West Indies at Trent Bridgeiss.
But Saker, a former Victoria and Tasmania seamer who never played Test cricket for Australia, insisted: “When Jimmy and Swann bowl together it is not unlike McGrath and Warnie at times.
“McGrath and Warne in tandem were amazing but I have seen some spells from Jimmy and Swanny that have been just as good or better at times.
“In Sri Lanka (earlier this year) there were a couple of times, especially late on day four in the second Test, when those two reminded me so much of McGrath and Warne. They put so much pressure on the Sri Lankan batting group and the wickets fell.”
Anderson is currently third in the International Cricket Council’s bowling rankings and Swann fourth while paceman Stuart Broad is sixth.
Seam bowler Tim Bresnan moved up 10 places to 15th on the back of his eight wickets at Trent Bridge and Saker said England’s bowling depth was reminiscent of the successful Australia teams of the 1990s and early 2000s.
“McGrath was the stand-out in that group but they had Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Andy Bichel…they were all fantastic bowlers,” he said.
“This group is very skilful too. What they do really well is assess conditions quickly. They will see if it is swinging and, if so, they will stick to our original plans.
“If it is not doing that, they will come up with some other plan.
“They are very skilful — to be able to bowl conventional swing and they say ‘this is not going to work’ and then switch to reverse and attack in different ways – that is a huge weapon to have.”
England coach Andy Flower and the selectors are considering whether to rest Anderson and Broad for next week’s third Test at Edgbaston, with the series won and a packed schedule of international cricket on the horizon.
Saker said he expected the players would hate the idea of missing a Test but stressed their long-term welfare was a consideration.
“There’s no doubt the likes of Anderson and Broad will want to play because it gives them more chance of taking Test wickets,” Saker said.
“But if they have a Test off here and there, in my opinion, it probably gives them the chance to play longer. Those wickets can be picked up later because their careers will be longer. So there are two ways of looking at it.
“We’ll probably give it two or three days and Andy and the selectors will sit down and ask whether it is the right thing to do. The players and medical team will be asked.
“We have a lot of hard cricket ahead, Tests and one-dayers, and we need to make a decision for the good of English cricket.”
Buford Balony says: Piss off Saker, you are a twit.