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Dukes ball gives James Anderson ‘glimmer of hope’

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

After having little to do in England’s Test series win away in Sri Lanka, James Anderson is hoping that with the Dukes ball in hand, he and the other seamers can play a bigger role in the Caribbean.

On the spin-friendly surfaces in Sri Lanka, Anderson took just one wicket in the two Tests he played. That it was the Kookaburra ball in use, which doesn’t allow for much movement, did not help the seamers.

But now that he’ll have his beloved Dukes in the three-Test series against West Indies, Anderson sees “a glimmer of hope”.  After all, he has taken 368 of his 565 Test wickets with it while bowling in England.

The cherry in use in the West Indies is a modified Dukes, made to last longer in the warmer and more abrasive conditions than in England. Anderson took four wickets with it in the first warm-up game, where England’s bowlers accounted for 19 wickets in a day.

“The bowlers really enjoyed their first week here,” he told reporters, ahead of the first Test starting Wednesday, January 23. “The Dukes ball has been moving around and swung for a considerable amount of time throughout the warm-up games. At least there’s a glimmer of hope for us seam bowlers. We’re hoping for a little bit – just a little bit – through the air and it keeps you interested for the game.”

While Cricket West Indies have used the Dukes in recent years, back in 2009, when Anderson took nine wickets in the series, it was with the Kookaburra. England lost that series. When they were here in 2014, Anderson broke Ian Botham’s all-time wickets record, and accounted for 17 wickets with the Dukes. The scoreline was 1-1. The tours have given him a better understanding of what’s needed.

“For the seam bowlers, we didn’t feel like we could affect the game that much [in Sri Lanka],” he told Sky Sports. “Here, even though the wickets might be quite flat still, with the ball moving around through the air, you feel like you can affect the game a bit … We’ve talked about maybe bowling a touch fuller if it’s swinging early on, even if the wicket is flat.”

Anderson isn’t the only England pacer with a smile on his face ahead of the series. Stuart Broad, his new-ball partner, is happy with how his tweaked action is working. Broad named his senior as an inspiration for making the change, and it appears to be a mutual admiration society.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone work as hard as Stuart has on his game since Australia,” said Anderson. “He’s put so many hard yards in, not just on his run up but on his action, trying to swing the ball away again and stuff like that. I do think his run up has looked really good here. It might just get a couple more years out of him and I think a part of him is saying, ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?'”

Among the changes is a shorter run-up, and the senior bowler approved. “For me, it’s all about the last six yards,” he said. “You build that momentum up to the crease. He still has the same snap and can definitely have the same oomph.”

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