James Anderson ‘the complete bowler’, says Michael Atherton, after bowling masterclass for England

Three wickets for 24 runs in 19 overs.

England seamer James Anderson delivered a bowling masterclass on day one of the second Test in Galle and was called a “master craftsman” by Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton as he flourished on a flat pitch.

The 38-year-old – playing his first Test since August, when he became the first seamer in history to reach 600 wickets in the format – sent down 10 maidens and also dismissed Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera and Oshada Fernando after Sri Lanka had elected to bat.

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Atherton said of Anderson: “He is an amazing cricketer.

“He has always been excellent in home conditions but he has learned and become the complete bowler in conditions, really, that can’t be more unhelpful for a fast medium swing and seam bowler.

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“If he’s not getting people out, he’s not going for runs. He is a master craftsman and it is a pleasure to watch him bowl. Anderson and [Stuart] Broad are fabulous role models for young bowlers.”

Anderson came into the side for the rested Broad, who had excelled in the first Test with 3-20 in Sri Lanka’s first innings and then 11 maidens from 17 overs in their second.

Nasser Hussain said: “I think in England we are sometimes a bit early to write off our legends, whereas in other parts of the world they try to keep them for as long as possible.

“We are very unfortunate to have lived, played with, commentated on, and watched Anderson and Broad in the same era because they are exceptional. They are in a different league.

“I think it is a great lesson for anyone approaching the end of their career – Jimmy won’t like me using that phrase about him – to have that Anderson mindset.

“In the last year or two [when people have asked questions], he has unequivocally said no chat about retirement and that he is aiming to play in the next Ashes. It’s not ‘we’ll see’ or ‘I’m trying to get through this series’ or ‘I’ll retire at the end of the summer’.

“When you have that mindset, you are constantly thinking like you are 26. The body might be aging, and he will be sore, but the strong mind will get him through. He is convincing himself he is not on his last legs and will keep going until someone takes the ball out of his hand.”

Mark Wood – who bowled 17 overs in Sri Lanka’s 229-4, including eight on the trot in the final session – does not sense that Anderson is contemplating retirement.

“He is fitter than he ever has been, same as Broady,” said the paceman.

“He doesn’t talk [about retiring] – doesn’t seem like he wants to do that. He works as hard as ever and has been good with the injury side of things. It is great to have him around.

“Jimmy and Broady are literally a class above. They never miss their length and their skill level is through the roof. I can’t believe at times how good they actually are until I get up close to them.

“They are constantly communicating – tinkering, trying to get people out, but at the same time giving them nothing. They are world-class, there is no other way to put it.

“They have knuckled down in the cold Covid times and really got themselves fit. They are a great example for young lads in the squad for how to keep going, longevity, and skill level.”

Anderson, speaking at stumps, said he felt the nerves as he prepared to play his first Test in five months, while he was also delighted that Wood’s hard work was finally rewarded with a wicket.

Anderson added: “There were a lot of nerves this morning – it’s not unusual but there were more than normal as I have not played for a while and you want to hit the ground running and get into rhythm early on. Luckily it slotted straight back in.

“Woody was saying he was tired after three overs so to get through eight was an amazing effort! He really deserved his wicket as I thought he bowled really well in the first game while going wicketless.”

Watch day two of the second Test between Sri Lanka and England live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4.25am on Saturday.

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