Fast bowlers are widely known to use three different methods to get the ball to swerve through the air: conventional swing, contrast swing, reverse swing. James Anderson, however, can lay claim to a fourth method: reverse reverse swing.
According to no less an authority than Sachin Tendulkar, who faced him in 14 Test matches and was dismissed by him a record nine times, Anderson has a way of confounding batsmen with his wrist position while delivering the outswinger with the reverse-swinging ball.
The conventionally swinging ball swings towards the rough side, and the reverse-swinging ball towards the shiny side. The ball's orientation for the conventional inswinger, therefore, is the same as the one for the reverse outswinger. The two deliveries usually involve different wrist positions, but Anderson, Tendulkar noted in a chat with Brian Lara on the 100MB app, had the ability to deliver a reverse outswinger with the wrist position of a conventional inswinger.
While batting against @jimmy9, I noticed his remarkable ability to bowl reverse swing REVERSE!— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) July 9, 2020
He is one of the best exponents of this art! Will be interesting to watch him bowl once the ball starts to reverse. #EngvWI @brianlara pic.twitter.com/zhPM8MXsUM
"With reverse swing, Jimmy Anderson was possibly the first bowler who bowled reverse swing also reverse," he said. "What I experienced, over a period of time, [is] that he would hold the ball as if he was bowling [a reverse] outswinger, but [at] the release point, he would try and bring the ball back in, and [a] number of batters would look at the wrist position, and what he has actually done, he's shown you that he's bowling inswing, but the imbalance between both sides of the ball would take the ball away from you.
"What he has done is, he's got you to commit to play, for an [inswinger], and the ball, after covering almost three-fourths of the length of the pitch, starts leaving you. But you had already committed [to play], because you've seen that inswing position, and that is something which was new to me. Nobody had done that.
"Now, [a] number of guys, you see their shine, and what they're trying to do - I spotted even Stuart Broad trying to do that at some stage, but Anderson started this [a] long time ago. So I rate him very very highly. One of the best exponents of reverse swing."
One of Anderson's best spells in reverse-swinging conditions came in Kolkata in 2012, when he took three wickets in each innings to help England take a 2-1 series lead. Anderson had Tendulkar caught behind for 76 in the first innings with a reverse outswinger, but it's unclear whether that ball was a reverse-reverse outswinger.
Nonetheless, if other bowlers can master Anderson's seeming ability to deliver reverse reverse swing, it gives batsmen one more thing to worry about, particularly when the ball is at that stage of its lifespan when it's transitioning from swinging conventionally to reversing.