James Anderson out, eye on India Test
James Anderson, down with an ankle injury, will miss England’s third and final Test versus New Zealand at the Headingley in Leeds beginning on Thursday. Anderson, who turns 40 next month, has been rested to ensure his services for the rescheduled Test match against India, which begins from July 1 at Edgbaston.
England would obviously need Anderson for the remaining Test of last year’s series that was called off on the opening day due to Covid-19 scare in the Indian camp. After being dropped from the West Indies Tests following a forgettable Ashes campaign Down Under, Anderson has done well to regain a fair bit of his form in the ongoing series versus the Black Caps.
The hosts have already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and Anderson’s absence means 28-year-old Jamie Overton is set for a Test debut in Leeds.
With 11 wickets in the two Tests, Anderson, who has the most number of scalps (651) for a pacer in the longest format, staged a perfect comeback.
Against India, England trail 1-2 and must win the fifth Test if they are to avoid a series defeat. No wonder they would like a fresher and fit Anderson for the must-win game.
Captain Ben Stokes, too, stated the need to keep Anderson away from the Leeds Test keeping in mind the all-important clash versus India next week.
“Unfortunately, Jimmy has not pulled up as well as we would have liked. So Jamie Overton is going to make his debut (in this New Zealand Test. It’s unfortunate for Jimmy, but we’ve obviously got a massive Test match against India next week to look to as well,” Stokes said on Wednesday.
The skipper, though, is unsure of the seriousness of Anderson’s injury. “I’m not too sure, to be honest, but he has got a bit of a puffy ankle,” Stokes said.
“Jamie fills a different role from Jimmy, but to have someone in our back pocket who can bowl 90 miles an hour is big for us,” the captain added.
If it’s just a minor niggle, the week-long rest in store for Anderson should help him recover ahead of the much-awaited clash versus India. But going by what Stokes said, if Anderson has a swollen ankle, and it doesn’t reduce in the coming days, chances of the pacer returning for the Edgbaston Test will only get remote.
The ankle injury surfaced after Anderson had sent down as many as 72.4 overs in the two Tests against the New Zealanders. At 39, that’s certainly a massive workload and in Anderson’s case, his age is his biggest hindrance.
That said, there’s still some time at England’s disposal to get Anderson back to prime fitness before they cross swords with Rohit Sharma’s team.
Anderson’s numbers against India in England are fairly impressive as he has 99 wickets in 21 Tests. But going back to the four Tests last year, Rohit and his opening partner KL Rahul did manage to put up a stiff resistance, forcing Anderson to work a little extra harder for his 15 wickets and having just one five-wicket haul.
But with Rahul unavailable this time around, Anderson could certainly have fancied his chances. Shubman Gill is most likely to open the innings with Rohit, in Rahul’s absence. Unless the Indian team management has another alternative in mind.