JAMES ANDERSON modestly played down his achievement in becoming the first Englishman to take 400 Test wickets and then admitted that England fell short of their usual high standards on the opening day of the Headingley Test.
Anderson became the 12th man – and the eighth pace bowler – to reach the milestone when he had New Zealand opening batsman Martin Guptill caught at second slip by Ian Bell with his eighth ball in the game’s third over.
It sparked jubilant celebrations among the England players and the 13,000 crowd, who gave the Lancastrian a standing ovation.
Anderson thus gave England the perfect start before New Zealand fought back to reach 297-8 at stumps on a day when 25 overs were lost to rain.
Anderson followed in the footsteps of fellow 400-club members Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Glenn McGrath, Courtney Walsh, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Shaun Pollock, Wasim Akram, Harbhajan Singh and Curtly Ambrose.
He claimed his 401st wicket two balls later when he had Yorkshire batsman Kane Williamson caught behind for a duck. Anderson was England’s best bowler on a day when he finished with figures of 13-3-43-2, with Stuart Broad capturing 3-83 from 14 overs, Mark Wood 2-62 from 14 and Ben Stokes 1-43 from 13.
Luke Ronchi top-scored for New Zealand with 88 on an impressive Test debut, sharing a sixth-wicket stand of 120 in 25 overs with opener Tom Latham, who made 84.
“It was a proud moment for me, I guess,” said Anderson as he reflected on breaking the 400 barrier.
“I don’t really know what to say about it, to be honest; it feels a bit surreal when you see the list up on the TV of all the guys who have got 400 in the past, and to be up there with them is a bit surreal – the guys I’ve watched and admired over the years.
“I knew it was there for me, so it was nice to get it out of the way early.
“But I’d rather have done it at Old Trafford.”
England started well after inserting their opponents beneath cloudy skies as Anderson reduced them to 2-2.
But the visitors launched an impressive counter-attack, reaching 264-5 before three late wickets left the match intriguingly poised.
The most striking feature of the day was the New Zealand run-rate – 4.56 per over.
Anderson believes they helped their opponents with some indifferent bowling, struggling for consistency on the back of their 124-run win in the first Test at Lord’s.
“We didn’t bowl particularly well after getting those two early wickets,” he said.
“Going for over four-and-a-half runs an over for the day is not good by our standards, and although we were happy to get the eight wickets, we would have liked to have kept them to a few less runs.
“The game’s moving forward, and I think it’s no shock that they scored as they did and that we took wickets following on from that Test match at Lord’s.
“Both teams are playing aggressive cricket, and when we didn’t bowl well they punished us.”
England conceded 44 fours and four sixes during the 65 overs possible but maintained attacking fields throughout.
Anderson said that was a deliberate ploy as the countdown continues to the Ashes series.
“We’re trying to be aggressive and attacking with our field settings, with the lines that we bowl and the lengths that we bowl,” he said. “We’re trying to bowl the top of off stump, and although we didn’t do that today for long enough, that’s the way we’re looking to move forward – by being aggressive.
“Australia are going to be aggressive when they come over here, and we’re looking to play that same sort of cricket and fight fire with fire.
“Our batting line-up is also naturally aggressive, and we’re going to score quickly.”
Another near sell-out crowd is expected today as England’s batting order attempt to repeat their efforts at Lord’s.
Anderson believes they will be assisted by a sporting Headingley surface.
“We’ve seen that there’s a bit of movement there off the pitch, a tiny bit with the new ball, but if you get in on it you can score quite freely,” he said. “When we come to bat, hopefully we’ll go well.”
Match report, reaction and scorecard: Page 5.