Trent Bridge: The irony was as heavy as the grey skies hanging over Trent Bridge. Zaheer Khan, India's bowling spearhead, gingerly loosened up in front of the pavilion. At the same end, at one corner, a smiling James Anderson, Zaheer's opposite number for England, handed over the keys to a school bus donated by the Lord's Taverners Foundation to a local school in Nottingham. One man wore a forced smile (Zaheer). The other, a genuine one (Anderson). Between them both these fast men hold the key to the world No.1 Test ranking.
Minutes later, Anderson declared that England were ready for taking over the world No. 1 Test ranking, currently held by India, after a bowling display at Lord's which he believed might have surpassed what Andrew Strauss' team did during their victorious Ashes campaign.
In a gripping series opener witnessed by fullhouses across the five days at Lord's last week, England's fast bowlers dominated the Indian batting thoroughly in the 196-run victory. To topple India at the top of the rankings table, England need to win the four-Test series by a margin of two. Anderson felt England were marching towards their target confidently.
"If we keep playing good cricket and concentrate on the little things that get us there, we hope the end product will be becoming the number one team in the world," said Anderson, the lone Englishman at the ground (England were practising at Loughborough).
"We know we are playing really good cricket at the minute. Everyone is chipping in, if we need someone to step up, generally they step up - whether it is Matt [Prior] and Broady [Stuart Broad] in the second innings with the bat or Broady in the first innings with the ball [at Lord's]. So someone is doing it when we need them to do that.
"We are preparing really well, practising really well, trying to improve as individual and as a team. So if we can continue to do that we know we can do great things," said Anderson, who vaulted to No.2 on the ICC's Test bowling rankings on Monday.
Anderson had himself played a crucial role in the win after bouncing back from a wayward first-innings performance to finish with his third five-for at the ground, where he has taken 43 wickets in the ten matches.
"The ball swung a little bit for us in the first innings, but not in the second innings," Anderson said reviewing the Lord's match. "In the second innings, to create pressure we did without the ball doing a great deal - I think a few balls kept low but the wicket was still pretty good - was fantastic and probably was up there with Australia if not any better," said Anderson, who was the highest wicket-taker in the last Ashes with 24 wickets at 26.04.
It was Anderson's perseverance on the final day, more than his skill to swing, that quelled the Indian challenge. At Trent Bridge, a ground famous for its swinging conditions and one Anderson has taken his most five-wicket hauls at (four from 11 Tests), he will once again be a force to be reckon with.
Anderson needs three more wickets to pip Darren Gough and become the ninth highest wicket-taker for England and he said that, just like Zaheer, he understood his bowling and was happy in himself.
"I feel like I'm in a really good place," Anderson agreed. "In the first innings at Lord's I didn't bowl very well, I bowled a bit wide but did bowl a good length. I knew if I could hold my length and get my line better in the second innings I could cause some damage. And the fact I could make that adjustment in the space of a couple of days really pleased me and really showed me I'm in control of what I'm doing."
A big difference between the Anderson on and off the field is his demeanour. With ball in hand, he likes to charge to the batsman and give an earful in his native Burnley accent. Off the turf, he is more reticent. But today Anderson seemed more open to take guard. To speak up like the best fast bowler in English conditions.
Asked if he would like to overtake Dale Steyn as the No.1 Test bowler on the ICC rankings, Anderson said that was not a goal. "[It is] not as important as overtaking Swanny [Graeme Swann, who's No. 2 spot he just took], that is what I was focussed on.
"But our end goal as a team is to be No.1 in the world and to do that we need individuals in the top ten and to try and be as good as we possibly can be. We've seen that with batsmen and bowlers now breaking into the top ten. Trotty [Jonathan Trott] at No.2 is doing a fantastic job for us, Cooky [Alastair Cook] as well at five. So it's important we keep working our way up. I'd love to be No.1 one day but I have got a lot of work to do before then."