James Anderson is adamant England’s batsmen have what it takes to pull off another famous draw in South Africa on the final day of the fourth Test at Centurion.
The tourists have it all to do on the last day to preserve their 2-0 series lead after closing on 52 for three in pursuit of an unlikely 382.
England have a reputation of completing great escapes in South Africa, twice denying the hosts victories during their drawn series in 2009/10.
Graham Onions was the hero at the death on both occasions, helping Paul Collingwood repel the Proteas in the first Test here at Centurion and then doing the same alongside Graeme Swann two matches later at Newlands.
Anderson played in both those nail-biting encounters and is confident his side can frustrate South Africa yet again tomorrow to ensure they do not end a successful tour with a defeat.
“I think with the situation of the series, having won the series, we don’t want to go out on a damp note,” the Lancastrian, who also played in dramatic draws at Cardiff in 2009 and Auckland in 2013, told ecb.co.uk. “There is a really good chance tomorrow.
“We saw James Taylor and Joe Root play really well to get us through the night. If they can build on their partnership tomorrow, hopefully the ball will go a bit softer and the pitch will do a bit less, and we can get through the day.
“I have been involved in a game here, last time we were here in 2009, where it was left to Graham Onions and Paul Collingwood to see us through.
“There is always that glimmer of hope. If we get a few people in on that pitch then we can give it a go and see where we can get to.”
Anderson admitted it was a day of “frustration” after England struggled to build on a promising start.
England’s leading Test wicket-taker displayed his class with the ball this morning, removing Stephen Cook and AB de Villiers in the space of three balls to give his side hope of limiting South Africa.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 25, 2016
“This morning we thought we had a chance in the game if we got some early wickets, which we did, but we couldn’t quite capitalise on that,” Anderson said.
“It would have meant bowling them out and leaving ourselves 250-300 to chase down. But, as it is, it is a bit more than that and losing three wickets tonight is not ideal.
“We have been in this situation plenty of times before. It is going to be a tough ask to bat out the day tomorrow, but we will give it a really good go.”
Anderson finally got the rewards his bowling on this tour deserved, utilising the cloud cover on offer this morning to take out Cook and De Villiers.
“I felt like I bowled pretty well throughout the series but not got the wickets I would have liked to have got,” he said.
“It was nice to get a few today, get a couple of breakthroughs early. It has been pretty disappointing for me but I don’t feel like I have bowled particularly badly.”
On dismissing South Africa skipper De Villiers, who before this Test suggested Anderson had lost his pace, the Englishman said: “It was mentioned when I got the wicket that this game has got a funny way of biting you if you say the wrong things in the media.
“It was nice to get him out. It was frustrating for us. We thought we could get a few more and maybe bowl them out but it wasn’t to be.”
Anderson’s dismissal of Cook, caught behind by Jonny Bairstow for 25, was his 432nd in Tests and moved him past Sir Richard Hadlee into seventh on the all-time wicket list.
But Anderson said: “They (records) are not important right now. My job is to try and help England win games of cricket and try and take as many wickets as I possibly can to do that, putting us in winning positions. I concentrate on that and let everything else take care of itself.”
Anderson has struck up a brilliant new-ball pairing with Stuart Broad over the years for England and, having seen his team-mate storm to the top of the International Cricket Council Test bowling rankings following his heroics in Johannesburg, heaped praise on him.
“He has been fantastic,” Anderson said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with him and forging a partnership with him. He is getting rewards now.
“He is number one in the world, which is an amazing achievement, and he deserves all the success he gets because he puts in so much hard work. He is fantastic to watch at the other end.”