James Anderson lays down early Ashes marker by making short work of Glamorgan's Marnus Labuschagne

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James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne - GETTY IMAGES
James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne - GETTY IMAGES
  • Glamorgan (117-3) v Lancashire

In his first competitive bowl since the Ahmedabad Tests of fateful memory, James Anderson took another step towards his 1000th first-class wicket, and victim number 990 was not a bad one, being Marnus Labuschagne, who not only resembles Steve Smith but even surpasses him now as Australia’s best batsman.

Anderson had not bowled at Labuschagne in the Ashes series of 2019, having broken down in the first Test. Labuschagne was the concussion substitute for Smith in the second at Lord’s, and averaged 50 in that series, rising to 60 currently in Tests, which if maintained puts him among the all-time greats. Anderson had Labuschagne caught behind with his fifth ball at him.

It was stunning how fit Anderson looked aged 38. His response to breaking down at Edgbaston in 2019, and again at Cape Town that winter, has been to get even leaner and fitter. Most pace bowlers would have called it a day; Anderson called his strength and conditioning coach.

Last winter Anderson had subjugated Sri Lanka, the one country which had thwarted him, and reasserted his pre-eminence in India as England’s premier pace bowler. At the rain-delayed start at 11.25, Anderson peeled off his sweater to bowl in an Arctic wind and a short-sleeve shirt, waited for the world’s finest umpire Michael Gough to call play, and maintained the same standard.

It is true that Anderson’s second ball was a widish half-volley which the Glamorgan opener David Lloyd cover-drove for four - urged to still play his shots after being promoted to open, Lloyd made a worthy foe - and that he gifted Billy Root a four down leg side. But Anderson still conceded, or most grudgingly yielded, fewer than two runs per over.

The snap, more importantly, was still there. Running in off a dozen paces, Anderson made one ball burst through the wicketkeeper’s gloves when Dane Vilas took a lifter in front of his face. The pitch had decent carry for early May; even so, Anderson hit bats hard, harder than anyone else in Lancashire’s attack, though Saqib Mahmood was quicker.

When Glamorgan lost their first wicket of Joe Cooke, after Anderson had bowled his first six overs for 13 runs, he did not ask for one more over to have a go at Labuschagne - as if to say, he can wait. Labuschagne, on returning to Glamorgan for his second season, had said he has come to see more of England’s bowlers ahead of the Ashes, and referred to Anderson explicitly. But the taker of 614 Test wickets, having made him wait, pitched fourth stump and had him caught behind. Next please! Step forward, Victim 991.

County Championship round-up

By Tim Wigmore

The balance between bat and ball has been more equal than in early summers of recent seasons, but bowlers thrived on day one of the fifth round of County Championship matches, with three sides bowled out before tea.

The first instance came at Nottingham, where the reigning champions Essex were bowled out for just 99. Continuing his fine start to the summer, Stuart Broad had Alastair Cook caught behind for three, and later added the scalp of Paul Walter lbw.

But Luke Fletcher was the main author of Essex’s ignominy, snaring 6-24: his best first-class figures in his 121st game. It followed a haul of 5-28 against Derbyshire in their previous game. After suffering a horrendous blow to the head in 2017, Fletcher’s superb early season will be cheered by county lovers. Haseeb Hameed’s 49 has already given Notts a lead, though it is not yet a match-defining one.

Essex’s miserable total was still 20 more than Hampshire managed as they were bundled out for 79 by Somerset. It was another show of Somerset’s pace strength, with Lewis Gregory snaring 4-26 and typically well backed up by Craig Overton and Josh Davey. Skipper Tom Abell followed up the wicket of Joe Weatherley, Hampshire’s top scorer with 20, by top scoring himself as Somerset claimed the lead.

At Northampton, Northamptonshire responded to the agony of a one-run defeat to Yorkshire last week by bundling out Sussex for just 106, with Ben Sanderson and Gareth Berg both claiming five-fers. Rob Keogh’s brisk 66 has put Northants in a dominant position, even as Ollie Robinson further pushed his England claims.