Jimmy Anderson a serious doubt for England’s Ashes opener

• Bowler sustains calf tear playing for Lancashire
• Jofra Archer could step up for first Test at Edgbaston

Jimmy Anderson, England’s record-breaking seam bowler and the spearhead of the bowling attack, is in serious danger of missing the first Test against Australia following the news that an MRI scan has shown he has suffered a “low-grade calf muscle tear”.

The first Test in the most condensed Ashes series ever undertaken begins on 1 August at Edgbaston and is preceded by England’s first Test match against Ireland at Lord’s, which starts on 24 July. That is an historic occasion but England are also planning to use it as vital preparation for the Ashes series. Now there is no guarantee Anderson will be fit for either game.

Anderson left the field during Lancashire’s County Championship match against Durham at Sedbergh school on 2 July because of tightness to his right calf; he underwent an MRI scan on Friday and now begins a rehabilitation programme with the England and Lancashire medical teams. He will miss Lancashire’s next two championship matches, against Northamptonshire and Sussex.

The England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed the injury and said Anderson would be “reassessed on an ongoing basis regarding his availability” for the match against Ireland and the first Ashes Test.

Despite his age – 36 – Anderson has an excellent fitness record in recent times and remains England’s first-choice pace bowler in red-ball cricket; he was the outstanding bowler in England’s last Ashes campaign in Australia, albeit in a side who were easily overwhelmed. It would be a severe blow to England’s chances of regaining the Ashes if he was absent at the start. They would miss not only his bowling but also his on-field guidance.

At least England, who are assembling at Edgbaston to prepare for their World Cup semi-final against Australia, have some credible alternatives. Throughout the World Cup Jofra Archer, who had never bowled a ball for England until May, has been impressive, bowling fast and demonstrating an appetite for the big occasion. Anderson’s absence could well hasten the 24-year-old’s Test debut.

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If England are fearful of missing Anderson’s vast experience they know they can call on Stuart Broad, who, like Anderson, has been appearing in county cricket this summer in order to ensure he is ready for the challenge of another Ashes campaign. Within the World Cup squad there are also two bowlers whose chances of playing at Lord’s and Edgbaston are enhanced if Anderson is not fit.

Mark Wood played in England’s last Test match in St Lucia in February, where he took six wickets against West Indies, sufficient to win the man of the match award. Chris Woakes, who has not played a Test since August 2018, partly because of nagging injury concerns, has been displaying increasingly good form in the World Cup.

If Anderson is sidelined three of the four mentioned above are likely to join Ben Stokes in England’s pace attack at the start of the Ashes. But none can be regarded as like-for-like replacements for England’s most successful and durable pace bowler.


Vic Marks

The GuardianTramp

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