James Anderson may be the only seamer in history with 600 Test wickets to his name but the England great owned up to a minor bout of nerves before he once again delivered his brilliant best for England against South Africa.
Anderson reached that 600 landmark against Pakistan on August 25, but hadn’t played competitively since, sitting out the first Test against Sri Lanka as Stuart Broad led the attack.
The combination of a five-month intermission and replacing Broad in the only change to a winning team left Anderson with a few pre-match butterflies.
He need not have worried, though, as he tested the home batsmen with trademark precision on his way to figures of 3-24 from 19 overs, a tremendous effort on a largely docile pitch that saw Sri Lanka finish on 4-229 with Angelo Mathews compiling an unbeaten century.
“I was pretty nervous this morning – more so than usual,” said Anderson.
“It’s a weird situation to be in, I haven’t played for a while and then coming in for Broady, who did really well in the first game. Luckily I slotted straight back in.
“The work I put in behind the scenes in the first game has paid off and I felt in really good rhythm from ball one and that really helped. It was nice to get a couple of early wickets….it does help settle the nerves.”
Mark Wood claimed the fourth and final success of the day, finally landing Dinesh Chandimal lbw in his 39th over of an otherwise luckless series.
He bowled with great pace in searing heat and got his man in the middle of a punishing eight-over spell.
“Knackered. Still knackered. Even more knackered,” laughed the Durham quick when asked how he felt.
“My head got redder and redder on the big screen, that probably told you how I felt.”
Wood finished with a nod of respect for Anderson and the resting Broad, to whom he continues to look for inspiration.
“They’re literally a class above,” he said.
“They never miss their length, their skill level is through the roof. You almost can’t believe at times how good they actually are, until you’re up close to them. World-class – there’s no other way to put it.”