“We had a nice moment”: What Smith said to Anderson
VETERAN England seamer Jimmy Anderson has opened up on the tense final moments of the fourth Ashes Test.
The 39-year-old joined Stuart Broad at the crease with two overs to go, both to be bowled by a spinner in fading light, with Australia just one wicket from a 4-0 lead in the series.
Broad saw out a nervous over from Nathan Lyon, before Anderson patted away six deliveries from part-time leg-spinner Steve Smith.
Anderson, who was playing in his 169th test match, started from the wicket of Ben Stokes, caught at slip off Nathan Lyon on 60.
“Stokesy gets out in a fairly innocuous way… it was quite a soft dismissal for someone of his ability, and he’ll say that himself,” Anderson told the BBC’s Tailenders podcast after the match.
“The dressing room – what’s left of it – shows that he felt the same way about that dismissal.”
Australian captain Patrick Cummins struck twice 10 overs later, pinning Jos Buttler and Mark Wood in the span of three balls.
However, the Lancastrian said his heart only began to beat a bit faster when Jonny Bairstow was caught at silly mid-off off the bowling of Scott Boland with 10 overs left in the day.
“There were moments through the game where you think ‘we’ve got this, we’re comfortable,’ and then a wicket will fall,” Anderson reflected.
“The whole time Jonny was at the crease I thought ‘we’ve got this,’ he looked cool and calm, he looked in control, he was batting well, seeing the ball well.
“It wasn’t until he got out that I actually thought ‘Christ, I’m going to have to actually go out and bat. It was just one of those days.”
Anderson began to pad up as Bairstow made his way back to the stands, dismissed for a gritty 41 after a century in England’s first innings.
“I was sat in a chair in the dressing room,” he recalled.
“The Barmy Army were singing their song, ‘we are the army, the Barmy Army, and we are mental, and we are mad.’
“And I’m just tapping my feet along to that song. As soon as the bowler starting running in to bowl I stopped, watched the ball, and then started tapping again.
“I was also counting down, so if someone started an over I was like ‘right, I’ve got five balls to face in this over if Leachy or Broady get out this ball.’
With three overs to go, umpires Paul Reiffel and Rod Tucker ruled the light was too poor to subject the batsmen to pace.
“(It was) then I thought ‘I’ve got this,’” Anderson said.
“Spin is my absolute niche. I absolutely love facing spin. I thought the guys would get through it but unfortunately Leachy got out with two overs to go.
“I still backed myself, and I felt quietly confident going out there. If it was Pat Cummins bowling, you’d have seen a lot more of the whites of my eyes.”
England’s rear guard was left to Anderson and Broad, veteran fast bowlers with 320 Test matches and 1171 Test wickets between them.
Despite having played in 128 tests together, Broad – who has two test centuries and averages 18.53, twice Anderson’s 9.27 – felt he had to coach his mate through the moment.
“The minute I got out there, he was telling me exactly what to do. ‘Get a big stride in, smother the ball, don’t let the bounce beat your bat,’” Anderson laughed.
“I was like ‘alright mate, I’ve played before, it’s fine!’”
By the time Smith was thrown the ball, Anderson knew he could secure a draw for his country, and fend off a third whitewash in the last five Ashes series in Australia.
“I was thinking clearly, because I knew it was only spin I could face,” he recalled having reasoned, as he took his chest pad and arm guard off to minimise the chance of a catch at short leg.
“I just had to see out six balls from Steve Smith, and five were pretty good balls, he landed them really well.
“And then the sixth ball… I don’t like using the word ‘pie,’ people in cricket do often use it. I don’t think Steve would begrudge me for using the word ‘pie.’
“I immediately smiled as soon as he bowled that ball, because it was short and wide and easy to defend.
“I shook his hand and was like ‘what was that?’ and he’s like ‘yeah, the pressure got to me.’ We had a nice moment at the end of the game.’”
The fifth and final Ashes Test of the summer will be played in Hobart from January 14 to 18.
– NATHAN JOHN