Stuart Broad deservedly dominated the headlines after his outstanding performance either side of lunch at Lord's on Sunday, during what became a deceptively frictionless surge towards victory on the fourth day of the summer's opening Test match.
England struggled for three days to lay a decisive glove on a resourceful and well-balanced New Zealand team. It took a decisive shift, a quickening of the pitch but also a concerted regathering of England's bowling attack, to induce the 50-minute spell of tumbling wickets before lunch that decided the game.
It was noticeable that both captains focused less on Broad's spectacular penetration and more on the conjoined and complementary pressure generated by England's new-ball bowlers. Of James Anderson's seven wickets five came in the first innings with the match finely poised. And as ever there were moments of deliciously executed craft, not least perhaps the dismissal of Bruce Martin on Saturday: successive deliveries veered in late to thud into the pads of New Zealand's No9 (who has two first-class hundreds to his name); the third nipped away dreamily to hit the top of off stump, evading a baffled forward prod.
It is the execution of these skills that makes the purist drool, not least England's bowling coach David Saker who spoke about Anderson with the enthusiasm of a fan. "To me he is the most skilful bowler in the world," he said. "I know Dale Steyn is an outstanding bowler but when you watch Jimmy and the way he went about things, he has got more skills than Dale Steyn in his locker. Steyn is a little bit quicker but when you watch Jimmy deliver those skills, it is just mind blowing. I would love to be in the position where Matty Prior is to watch it really closely first hand. I get an opportunity to catch him at training and it is exciting just to watch him do that. When he gets things right there is no more skilful bowler in the world."
Athletes in any discipline who improve rather than atrophy with age are a rare treasure and Anderson's progress is clearly delineated – his first 150 Test wickets came at 35 runs apiece, his second 150 at 10 runs fewer – during which time he has performed in all conditions as a wonderfully reliable leader of England's attack.
"He is naturally a swing bowler but he has worked extremely hard on different balls," Saker said. "I remember watching him as a supporter of an Australian team. He could swing the ball but you always knew he was going to give you a boundary here and there, but now as a batsman it is really hard to get runs off him. He very rarely gets cut and he doesn't bowl any short balls."
"I have never met a guy as good as him who wants to keep getting better. That is one of the reasons why he is as good as he is. He has got a body as well that can play for a lot longer. Hopefully he can take 400 wickets and be England's greatest wicket-taker. That would be a great feat for him."
If Saker's prediction that Anderson should be able to continue at his current level for "five or six years" is hearteningly optimistic, England's bowling coach had no news on Kevin Pietersen's progress towards fitness, despite having spent the last knockings at Lord's sharing a balcony pew with him.
"We are all hopeful he will be back for the Ashes but we are still not sure on that," Saker said. "I just asked him if he thought he would be all right and he said he thinks he will. It was probably the only answer he could give. He doesn't know, and until he knows he can run around and it doesn't flare up, he can't have an answer on that. He was really excited about getting ready for the Ashes but he said he is still not sure."
One player who won't take any further part in the English summer is New Zealand's left-arm spinner Bruce Martin, who injured his calf at Lord's and has left the tour. Daniel Vettori, who arrives with the one day squad on Tuesday, is an option to replace him in the Test squad.
Their captain Brendon McCullum says he will drop down the order to bat at No7 if he is required to cover for the injured wicketkeeper BJ Watling but Tom Latham or Luke Ronchi could also be called in.
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