England are enjoying a golden generation of bowlers who have driven the team to World Number One in Test cricket and will soon head out to Sri Lanka to defend their World Twenty20 title (though there is, of course, work to be done in ODI cricket). But how would they line up against their predecessors?
Jimmy Anderson is today’s… Ian Botham.
Those who only caught the “Botham as celebrity” end of his career missed out on seeing England’s most complete bowler of the last 40 years. The young Botham could swing it both ways, seam it both ways, had a nasty bouncer, could (and would if he had the chance) bowl all day and instinctively knew when it was time to seize a match that was drifting. That he had a bigger change of action in comparison to Jimmy when he rang the changes, hardly mattered – an impeccably attacking full length and tight line gave no respite to batsmen indulging in anything less than full concentration. For all Jimmy’s tricks, Botham had even more. And he was an even better slip.
Stuart Broad is today’s… Bob Willis.
Like Big Bob, Stuart Broad has had to develop something that works for him – Willis straightened a diagonal run up and Broad found a length. Broad is quick, but not lightening, as was Willis (for his time) and both men rely on their height and accuracy to make top order batsmen feel for the ball at the length they don’t like, while the tail can be done for by pace when the yorker is slipped in behind a bouncer or two. Like Willis, Broad can be streaky, getting into a zone and staying there.
Steven Finn is today’s… Steve Harmison.
Hostile on the field, but somewhat diffident off it, both men have plenty that can go awry in their actions, which leads to run-scoring opportunities as well as wickets. Both hurry up even the best batsmen with splice-splitting bounce and both need to play in five man attacks in order to be fully comfortable in the post-Waugh game. Flintoff did his best mate Harmison plenty of favours at Number Six, and Finn might need to find his own Freddie if he is ever to be a regular in an Andy Flower side committed to bowling dry.
Tim Bresnan is today’s… Andrew Flintoff.
Bowls a tight line and gives little away “taking wickets at the other end” as batsmen seek to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Like Freddie, Bres can move the ball away from the left-handers from round the wicket and is happy to work with an older, scuffed ball that he can coax into reversing. Not as quick as Flintoff at his fastest and short of the personality that can wrench a game away with a vital wicket, Bres’ win-loss record more than makes up for this difference. Perhaps Bresnan’s apparent ordinariness makes his teammates shine, in the way that Flintoff’s extraordinariness may have prevented his teammates from taking responsibility.
Graham Onions is today’s… Matthew Hoggard
Close to the stumps and swinging the ball sufficiently to seek the edge of the bat or pass it and rattle the stumps, the two Northerners look for lateral movement to deceive the batsmen. Though Onions is genuinely fast-medium and Hoggy only just fast-medium, neither look too closely at the speedgun’s readings. Both will seek to bowl the odd cutter if the ball goes soft and starts to grip an ageing surface.
Chris Tremlett is today’s… Andrew Caddick
Tall, quickish when necessary, these quiet men look for the ball to kiss the pitch as batsman struggle to pick up the balls they must play and the balls they can leave. Off the field, both men have had doubts about their place in the side, but when it clicked, there are few England bowlers more likely to take wickets.
Jade Dernbach is today’s… Darren Gough
Well, maybe tomorrow’s. Confident, cocky even, and always willing to try something, both men have a useful slower ball to go with a skidding bouncer and enough swing to take the edge on a good day. Gough was the more exuberant, but both men like a chat to batsmen that occasionally spills over into something less savoury.
Scott Borthwick is today’s… Chris Schofield
Bats a bit and bowls leg-breaks that promise much but might not ever be up to the exacting standards of international cricket (and international pitches). The Durham spinner may make it or he may not, but he’s unlikely to have quite so many ups and downs as the ex-Surrey man, currently unattached.
Graeme Swann is today’s… Graeme Swann.
To everyone’s relief, there’s only one of him.