The highest praise
England duo are in the same bracket as legendary Aussies
Last Updated: May 29, 2012 7:15pm
Graeme Swann and James Anderson: on top of their game
England's bowling coach David Saker has compared James Anderson and Graeme Swann to Australia greats Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
When McGrath and Warne retired in 2007 they had a combined tally of 1,271 Test wickets, a total Saker's current colleagues - who currently share 455 - cannot hope to replicate.
But Anderson's mastery of controlled swing bowling and Swann's ever-reliable brand of finger spin have played a large part in propelling England to number one in the world, leaving Melbourne-born Saker, who could not break into Australia's Test side, to talk up their ability.
"When Jimmy and Swann bowl together it is not unlike McGrath and Warnie at times," said Saker.
"McGrath and Warne in tandem were amazing but I have seen some spells from Jimmy and Swanny that have been just as good or better at times.
"In Sri Lanka (earlier this year) there were a couple of times, especially late on day four in the second Test, when those two reminded me so much of McGrath and Warne. They put so much pressure on the SL batting group and the wickets fell.
"We should be saying our group is as good as them."
Anderson is currently ranked third in the International Cricket Council's bowling rankings, with Swann one place behind in fourth.
England also have Stuart Broad in sixth and Tim Bresnan up 10 places to 15th and Saker believes the strength in depth of their attack is also reminiscent of the all-conquering Australia side of the 90s and early 2000s.
"The Australians were stand-out bowlers, a great group for a long time and they also had a world-class spinner. You can compare them," he said.
" McGrath was the stand-out in that group but they had Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Andy Bichel...they were all fantastic bowlers.
"This group is very skilful too. What they do really well is assess conditions quickly. They will see if it is swinging and, if so, they will stick to our original plans.
"If it is not doing that, they will come up with some other plan. They are very good at talking out in the middle.
"Stuart and Jimmy are very good at that and they pass on that message to the rest of the group.
"They are very skilful - to be able to bowl conventional swing and they say 'this is not going to work' and then switch to reverse and attack in different ways - that is a huge weapon to have."
Team director Andy Flower and the national selectors are currently pondering whether to rest the likes of Anderson and Broad for the third Test at Edgbaston, with the series already won and an exhausting schedule ahead of the side for the rest of the summer.
Saker admitted the players themselves would be desperate to continue their good form - and cash in on a fragile West Indies batting line-up - but said long-term well-being was an important factor in the decision.
"There's no doubt the likes of Anderson and Broad will want to play because it gives them more chance of taking Test wickets," he said.
"But if they have a Test off here and there, in my opinion, it probably gives them the chance to play longer. Those wickets can be picked up later because their careers will be longer. So there are two ways of looking at it.
"We'll probably give it two or three days and Andy and the selectors will sit down and ask whether it is the right thing to do. The players and medical team will be asked.
"We have a lot of hard cricket ahead, Tests and one-dayers, and we need to make a decision for the good of English cricket."