What makes a great fast bowling pair?
Is it the camaraderie, when they complement each other intuitively? Or is friction between them preferred, jealousy turning into competitive drive and hurling both forward? Does it help if one is right-arm, the other left? Or if one bangs the ball in and the other kisses the surface? Or if one is meek, the other fiery?
There is no set template but it is a question worth revisiting right now, as James Anderson and Stuart Broad progress gradually up the charts of the best fast bowling pairs of all time. After taking 11 of the 20 wickets to fall in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, the pair now have 516 in 68 Tests together.
That puts them fifth in the list of the most successful pace pairs. They will almost certainly go past the three above them, though going past the most successful ever - Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, with 763 wickets - is not a done deal.
Numbers have their limitations, of course. Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson do not feature on that list but boy, can anybody deny their combined ferocity, their legend built on triumph, fear, blood and song? But until this series it has felt like Anderson and Broad have not really received the appreciation specifically as a partnership as they ought to have done. One of the few drawbacks of being part of a celebrated duo is that the greatness comes impinging on individual acclaim.
With these two, that has somehow not been the case. The quality of Anderson is widely acknowledged; his mastery has been duly celebrated. Broad’s value is also clear and uncomplicated more because. Together? Bizarrely, it has not really happened much until now.
One reason for it is that modern England has thrived on a fast-bowling quartet, or, latterly, a trio of fast men with Graeme Swann equally key. Much of the attention has been focused either on individual components, or on the collective depth of English pace bowling.
It is only now, when that depth has begun to look more shallow, when Swann has gone, and only Anderson and Broad are left that the story of the pair is materialising.
What they could be missing is that signature moment, that one match or series in which their combined work stands above all else, giving birth to a super-couple nickname, or celebrated by song. The whitewash of India in 2011 could have been one, except that as good as the front pair was Tim Bresnan.
Had Broad not missed much of the 2010-11 Ashes, that could have been their moment, like Lillee and Thomson against the West Indies in 1975-76; or Walsh and Ambrose against Australia in 1998-99; or Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock at Johannesburg against England in 1999-00; or, finally, the Ws, Wasim and Waqar, at Hamilton, New Zealand in 1992-93.
The synchronicity of their peaks, which is crucial, has also been rare. Broad missed important parts of two of Anderson’s greatest triumphs. Anderson was disappointing in Australia last winter, where Broad was probably England’s best bowler. In the Ashes before that they managed a frisson of duo-dom.
Otherwise they even have the contrast in bowling styles that is so useful in lighting up a pair. Anderson bowls like great Dutch footballers think: in unforeseen curves. His trajectories, in and out, to right and left-handed batsmen, is art.
Broad deals in straight lines and sharp angles. Unlike Anderson, a classicist, Broad is modern, a product of the post-Glenn McGrath era: back of a length, the top of off-stump. He does bowl fuller, with success too, but almost always with the accompanying rueful observation that he should do so more.
Anderson is indisputably the leader in the arrangement, though. He is the better bowler, a man who has grand affairs with each ball he bowls. He does not grip one as much as keep it in a transitory caress, escorting it on its way. His handling of the ball and its actions is gentler, more sensitive; hold it this way, swing it that way, hold it here, swing it here.
Broad does not worry for details of the orb. He drives hard-nosed negotiations with the surface. Put in this much effort, give me this much bounce, or eam. But his modernity gives him adaptability and so, across the shorter formats, he is better-rounded.
They share an attitude though. Sometimes it feels overdone, as if they are the boy band who have been told by a cricket-equivalent of Simon Cowell to be edgier so they can target a slightly older audience. In this series, Anderson has actually bowled better since shutting up.
Could this series, with 37 wickets so far, do it for them? Perhaps they got that performance on Saturday, when India collapsed so feebly; so potent now that with Anderson unwell and Broad not even able to bowl, even the mere apparition of the duo ran India over.
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