Main man Anderson delivers yet again when it matters

James Anderson secured victory for England by 14 runs in the first Investec Ashes Test in a gripping encounter against Australia at Trent Bridge.

England's James Anderson celebrates after bowling Peter Siddle

Tireless Anderson (5-73) bowled 13 successive overs on an agonising final morning, his burst of three wickets for six runs helping to give him 10 in the match.

But in the end it needed yet another DRS referral, in this epic contest dominated by them, to ensure the return of England’s pace lynchpin after lunch ended the heroics of Brad Haddin (71) in a 10th-wicket stand of 65 with James Pattinson as Australia were bowled out for 296.

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There were unmistakable echoes of Edgbaston 2005 – when England famously prevailed by just two runs in similar circumstances – as Haddin took the outcome ever closer to the wire.

England's James Anderson celebrates after bowling Peter Siddle

But more recent and raw memories were stirred when Anderson eventually had the Australia wicketkeeper caught behind off an inside edge after Aleem Dar had first given him not out.

The dismissals, or otherwise, of No 11 Ashton Agar in Australia’s first-innings fightback and Jonathan Trott’s lbw for a golden duck – both on Thursday – and then Stuart Broad’s decision not to walk when he had edged a ball to slip were all caught up in the embattled theme of contentious decisions this week.

It would be a disservice, however, to a wonderful match to allow DRS etc to overshadow this first of five Tests this summer.

Anderson’s accomplice yesterday morning after almost an hour had elapsed with no joy – and plenty of concern for any Englishmen in a sold-out crowd – was Alastair Cook, with three catches at first slip.

It was only right that the England captain should properly reward his highly-skilled workhorse, after asking near superhuman efforts of him from the Radcliffe Road end.

With the third ball of his eighth over, Anderson struck for the first time when he had Agar flashing the first catch to slip, ending a stubborn and increasingly threatening seventh-wicket stand of 43 with Haddin.

Then, in a second consecutive wicket maiden, Mitchell Starc went for only a single when Cook again provided the safe hands for a similar dismissal off another expansive outside edge.

Cook needed two opportunities to see off Peter Siddle the same way, dropping the Australia No 10 on 10 but taking an even better catch diving two-handed away to his right.

That, however, was a mere preface to what was to follow when Pattinson joined Haddin with a highly-improbable 80 runs still needed and England, by contrast, banking on just one more mistake from the last pair.

Instead, errors from the home side kept the tension climbing into the afternoon, as Haddin’s wicket might twice have ended the match in England’s favour before lunch.

First, a Jonny Bairstow direct hit from cover would have run him out for 61, with 39 still needed; then three runs later Steven Finn, whose two overs cost 24 yesterday, was unable to hold a tough diving chance on the deep square-leg boundary from a Haddin sweep at Graeme Swann.

Survival had been the only obvious intent from Agar and Haddin when play began on an initially cloudy morning which required the use of floodlights.

They duly came through more than half an hour against the old ball, before England decided – two overs after it was available – it was time to take the new one.

The tourists had mustered only 17 runs in 11 overs to add to their overnight 174-6, and England were still strong favourites.

But as the skies brightened, Haddin judged the hardness of the ball could work to his advantage as well as England’s on a slow, worn pitch.

Cook deployed Anderson in unaccustomed mode with wicketkeeper Matt Prior standing up.

The seamer still had enough energy to continue with the new ball but had Haddin coming at him by then – lofted shots over cover bringing him a two and then a boundary in the same over.

Even as partners seemed surely to be running out at the other end, when Anderson eventually had to have a breather, Haddin cashed in to pass a defiant 115-ball 50 with a rush of boundaries off the unfortunate Finn.

Pattinson joined in, and, through some well-timed shots, helped keep a remarkable battle of wills and skills uncertain until the very last moment.

When the end did come, it was in the most fitting, if slightly awkward, circumstances that Haddin had to go via DRS, after a series of contentious decisions – principally involving Dar and third-umpire Marais Erasmus – underpinned so much of what has happened here over the past five days.

The upshot is merely a 1-0 home lead in a series which has instantly endorsed all the hype and now heads to Lord’s on Thursday, presumably – and hopefully – for more of the same.