JAMES Anderson is no longer the one-dimensional swing bowler Australia might have thought they had seen off for good four years ago.
There was scant reward for Anderson’s outstanding bowling in the drawn first Test on what became a batsman’s paradise in Brisbane, but he got his just deserts on day one at the Adelaide Oval with figures of four for 51 as Australia were bowled out for 245.
After Ricky Ponting won the toss and Simon Katich was run out without facing a ball, it was Anderson who put Australia in serious trouble with two wickets in each of his first two overs.
He could not get the in-form Michael Hussey out - Graeme Swann’s expert off-spin and Paul Collingwood’s safe hands at slip were required for that, after the left-hander had made 93 - but Anderson did see off Ponting for a first-ball duck in the home captain’s 150th Test.
He was also too good for Michael Clarke, and eventually Shane Watson (51) - returning with the old ball on a glorious afternoon to limit an Australian total which included a third half-century, from Brad Haddin (56).
From two for three after three overs, Australia were perhaps thankful for small mercies. But England, who closed on one without loss from one over, are ideally placed on a traditionally even surface.
For that, they had Anderson (four for 51) largely to thank.
He attacked with the new ball and was prepared to play the patience game later on, all with precious few easy runs conceded.
All this is coming from a bowler who suffered more than most on England’s last Test tour of Australia - when he mustered just five wickets at the embarrassing cost of 82.6 runs each.
Even as he was bagging Pakistani wickets almost as fast as the batsmen appeared at the crease, under near persistent cloud cover in England last summer, there were those who sceptically predicted another humbling when it came to adapting his skills to Kookaburra balls and Australian pitches.
On the evidence so far, they are going to be proved wrong.
At 28, Anderson appears a bowler transformed - by sheer persistence and hard work, he believes, allied to the natural talent he had all along.
Asked to pinpoint what has changed, he finds no easy answer.
``Practice ... I’ve got more confident certainly, in my ability,” he said.
``I’ve gained a lot of confidence the last few years, realised where I can get to and how much better I can still get.
``I’m a much different bowler to the one who came out here four years ago.
``I think I’m much more experienced and I’ve gradually got better over the last few years, so it’s nice to bowl well out here.”
If Australia had any preconceptions about this winter’s tourists, they might have been to cast Ian Bell as well as Anderson as an Ashes also-ran.
Bell demonstrated with his first-innings 76 at the Gabba that he is no longer an easy touch, and Anderson is surely capable of being a major player all tour too.
``I didn’t think I had anything to prove,” he said.
``The new ball out here is obviously more crucial - there’s obviously a window where it swings.
``But I think one thing we’ve shown as a bowling group the last couple of innings is that we don’t need the ball to swing to bowl well.”
Neither was he about to mope about finishing with only two wickets for all his best efforts last week.
``I tried to put the Gabba out of my mind.
``I did bowl well there. I felt I bowled really well there, but the worst thing to do would be to feel sorry for yourself and not bowl well here.
``So I just wanted to continue the form I felt I was in - and I think I did that.”
Anderson was especially proud to have got Ponting out two matches in succession.
``He’s a fantastic cricketer,” he said.
``All bowlers want to get the best players in the world out, and I think he’s one of the best players in the world.”
He has an admirer too, in Hussey - who acknowledges Anderson’s progress.
``I just think he knows his game really well,” said Hussey.
``He’s obviously had the experience of playing in Australia before - and I think in this game you need a bit of luck as well, as a batsman and a bowler.
``He’s bowled very well; he’s had a bit of luck. It’s gone his way and it’s helped the confidence.
``You can’t really buy experience. He’s learned how to bowl well in these conditions.”
Number five Hussey found himself called into action barely 10 minutes into his team’s innings - but after a little fortune himself, dropped by Anderson when he offered a return catch on three, he rose to the challenge.
``I was just rushing to get my gear ready really,” he remembered, of his hectic morning.
``It was all happening very quickly. I couldn’t really believe it, to be honest.
``Before I blinked, I was out there in the middle.
``But I must admit I really enjoyed the contest.”