Ashes tour diary: James Anderson finds his niche, Steve Smith’s ‘pie’ and Labuschagne’s uncomplicated love

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·4-min read
Ashes tour diary: James Anderson finds his niche, Steve Smith’s ‘pie’ and Labuschagne’s uncomplicated love
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  • James Anderson
    English cricketer, born 1982

After Jimmy Anderson had shared a beer with his teammates, he headed back to the team hotel to record an emergency edition of his BBC podcast Tailenders, with Greg James and Felix White.

It was a classic episode in which Anderson, perhaps a little merry, took us inside a very entertaining final few minutes in Sydney.

When asked about Ben Stokes’ injury and a dismissal, he referred to the SCG changing rooms – “what’s left of it” – and revealed that he had left some of his teammates singing Backstreet Boys to record the podcast.

And then there was his six-ball innings.

“The whole time Jonny Bairstow was at the crease I thought, 'We've got this’,” he said. “It wasn't until he got out that I thought I'd have to bat.

“I've been in that situation a lot before. The best place to be in that situation is out in the middle, because that's where you're in control.

“There was a moment when the umpires said it was too dark to bowl seam. It was then I thought, 'I've got this. Spin is my absolute niche'. I absolutely love facing spin.

“I felt quietly confident going out there. If Pat Cummins had been bowling you'd have seen a lot more of the whites of my eyes.

“I was thinking clearly. I knew it was only spin I'd face. I even took off my chest pad and armguard to feel more comfortable and so the ball wouldn't bounce anywhere to the men around the bat.

“The minute I got out there Stuart Broad was telling me what to do, 'Get a big stride in, smother the ball, don't let the bounce beat your bat’. I was like, 'It's alright mate, I've played before, it's fine’.

“Five balls from Steve Smith, he landed them really well, but the sixth – I don't think Steve would begrudge me using the word ‘pie'. When I shook his hand I said, 'What was that?' He said, 'The pressure got to me’.”

Lovely stuff.

Staying safe

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sam Billings has passed two Covid tests and is in the England camp.

He was playing for Sydney Thunder, who suffered an outbreak around New Year, leading to he and Saqib Mahmood – who has headed home to go to the West Indies T20 tour – making a decision to be very safe.

“Saqib and I were pretty honest with each other a couple of weeks ago,” he recalled. “And said, ‘We don’t want to jeopardise our West Indies chances, let’s try and be sensible as possible’. So we’ve spent time together in terms of sharing cars and things like that. We even asked the Thunder guys if we could have a separate changing room.”

What will conditions be like in Hobart?

Hobart has been flooded with rain lately, leaving the Bellerive Oval underwater.

That will not help pitch preparation; the expectation is that the pitch will be very flat, to get as many days of cricket in having spent so much money securing the Test.

Feeling Paine


One person who will not be there is hometown hero Tim Paine, who is reported by The Age to be on holiday interstate.

Paine is still on an indefinite break from the game after resigning from the captaincy over his illicit text messages.

His replacement Alex Carey is struggling, but will keep his place. The big decision for Australia this week is how to fit three batters into two spots. Poor Travis Head missed out with Covid in Sydney, then watched Usman Khawaja stroke historic twin tons.

Marnus loves cricket

Marnus Labuschagne can be a pesky so and so, as he reminded fans on the final day when his absurd appealing guaranteed that he will never be welcome in the Australian brains’ trust’s conversations about reviews. Say what you want about Marnus, but there is one thing you cannot deny about him, as he reminded us in a couple of tweets after the game.

First, came one on the fifth evening: “Day 5, last hour, all around the bat. Not many things better than that. What a sport this is.”

And, then, on the morning of day six, this beauty: “I just love cricket.”

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