A 20-year-old James Anderson ripped through the experienced Pakistan batting line-up in a Pool A fixture of the 2003 World Cup in Cape Town, showing early signs of what was to follow in years to come.
The 2003 World Cup was not one to live long in the memory for England fans, Nasser Hussain’s men paying the price for taking a principled stand by forfeiting their match against Zimbabwe and slipping out at the group stage after Michael Bevan and Andy Bichel’s heartbreaking partnership at Port Elizabeth saw Australia home.
Still, there were a few moments to cheer for England’s travelling supporters, not least four members of the Anderson clan who had flown in to Cape Town to watch 20-year-old James for the first time in his fledgling international career.
It had been a stratospheric rise for the mercurial youngster. Two months earlier he’d made his ODI debut at the MCG – just his sixth professional one-day match – without a name or number on the back of his shirt. Later in the same series, he produced England’s most parsimonious 10-over spell for 20 years, recording figures of 10-6-12-1 at Adelaide. Now, here he was opening the bowling for his country at a World Cup.
Anderson had bowled impressively in England’s opening fixtures against the Netherlands and Namibia, but at Newlands he faced a different challenge altogether: a Pakistani batting unit packed full of class and experience. Hussain won the toss and opted to bat as Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood took England to 246/8. It looked about par but with conditions mirroring Trent Bridge on a damp May morning and Anderson quickly got to work.
The prize wicket of Inzamam-ul-Haq was his first, inducing an edge which was safely pouched by Nick Knight. That brought Yousuf Youhana, Pakistan’s best batsman, to the crease.
What followed was the swing-bowling equivalent of Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’. Under team instructions to target Yousuf with a full delivery first up, that’s exactly what Anderson produced, spearing in an unplayable 88mph yorker that appeared to be heading for Yousuf’s leg-stump only to deviate wickedly at the last moment and hit the base of off.
“We were bowling second and we’d seen it swing in the first innings, but because of the lights and the conditions it swung for longer than we expected,” Anderson told AOC last year. “In the meeting we’d had the night before Nasser had talked about getting Yousuf with a yorker early.”
As Yousuf trudged off, Anderson was engulfed by his teammates, not quite believing what they’d witnessed from a greenhorn who would go on to finish with 4/29.
We would have to be patient in the years that followed, but we’d just witnessed the emergence of a bowler with magic dust in his fingertips.
First published in October 2014.