James Anderson may look back with fond memories of his first New Zealand tour in 2008, but he has discovered England’s Kiwi head coach Brendon McCullum has less happy recollections.
It was 15 years ago in Wellington that captain Michael Vaughan made the decision to drop the old guard of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, fulcrums of the famous 2005 Ashes series, in favour of coming men Anderson and Stuart Broad.
It was the pair’s first outing together and they have since forged one of the game’s most enduring partnerships, with Thursday’s day/night match in Mount Maunganui set to be their 133rd shared Test.
Just a few days earlier he had been surplus to requirements and loaned out to Auckland for a first-class game, where he bowled 38 overs that tuned him up perfectly for his big chance. And McCullum, who was a senior figure in the New Zealand side that paid the price, was not best pleased.
“Baz brought that up actually, he wasn’t happy with it. He was fuming. Apparently at the time, the whole team were fuming at the time with Auckland,” he said.
“But it was amazing for me. I think (England’s former bowling coach) Ottis Gibson knew the coach of Auckland at the time. He wanted Chris Tremlett to go and play but Chris didn’t want to, so I put my hand up to play that game rather than carry the drinks at Hamilton.
“It turned out to be a very good decision. I didn’t set the world alight but bowled a lot of overs, got into a good rhythm and got me into a good place to play the next game.
“So we’ve got find memories here and it is special. Every time we go back to Wellington you remember that and look back at that as something huge for both me and Broady. With Hoggard and Harmison having been such a massive part of England’s success – and Harmy was number one in the world at one point – taking their places gave us so much confidence to go on and try and emulate them I guess.”
Those experiences might well give McCullum pause for thought in his current role too, with Australia’s Steve Smith heading to Sussex for a short-term deal ahead of this summer’s Ashes. Anderson, though, is unconcerned.
“You’d have to ask Baz about it, I’ve not really spoken to him about it. But I don’t mind it,” he said.
“I don’t think it will have any bearing on the result of the Ashes. Steve Smith playing county cricket won’t have a bearing on how many runs he gets in the first Test.”
England were able to net on grass at the Bay Oval’s indoor marquee, despite Cyclone Gabrielle delivering howling wind and plenty of rain outside.
For the bowlers that meant another chance to work on their skills with the pink ball. Ollie Robinson this week made it clear he is unimpressed by the current batch of Kookaburra’s product, which has a thin but stubborn membrane of lacquer that appears to resist swing.
It feels different in the hand and sounds unusual off the bat, leaving Anderson echoing his fellow seamer’s comments.
“The ones here don’t feel like a well-constructed ball,” he said.
“I’m not a massive fan but it feels like we don’t get much say in the sort of cricket we play, so we’ve got to turn up here this week and try to win the game.”
Anderson’s own record with the pink ball is exceptional, with his career average of 26.13 dropping to just 19.76, but England have lost all five of their overseas floodlit Tests by heavy margins.
“Maybe we just over-think things sometimes,” he suggested.
“You can potentially think you want to be batting at certain times and bowling at certain times when it might be beneficial but we’ve got a few things wrong.
“There will be times when it’s tricky to bat, when the twilight comes in, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t score big runs and then be able to take wickets with the ball with the aggressive mindset we’ve had over the last few months.”