Joe Root has warned anyone questioning Jimmy Anderson's ability does so at their peril, with England to give their record wicket-taker an immediate chance to address a low-key performance in Manchester during this week's second Test in Southampton.
Anderson, 38, picked up just one wicket as England went 1-0 up in the three-match series against Pakistan but was the only member of the bowling attack that Root was willing to confirm in the XI ahead of the return to the Rose Bowl.
The loss of Ben Stokes for family reasons sees Zak Crawley restored at number 3 but the 14-man matchday squad otherwise dictates a five-man attack. Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad, this summer's standout performers, will likely be retained, while Dom Bess is the only spinner available to Root during this period of hot weather.
It remains to be seen who out of Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Sam Curran and the uncapped Ollie Robinson claims the final spot unless Root, eyeing his seventh straight win as England captain, and Chris Silverwood, the head coach, pull off a surprise and pick two of them in a five-seamer attack. "You'll have to see," said Root here.
On Anderson, who quashed whispers of retirement at the start of the week, Root added: “‘I think to question Jimmy’s ability and his record, do that at your peril. There’s a reason he’s got so many wickets over such a long period of time.
“I don’t think it will be long before he’s back in the wickets big time. I think it would be very silly for us to write Jimmy off. He’s as dedicated as ever and he’s been very good in practice. I don’t think it will be long before he’s got another five-for next to his name.”
Root held talks with Anderson and believes his frustrations last week came down to the loss of atmosphere in the grounds this summer and the battle he has had to get back to regular action following an injury-plagued 12 months. The captain reminded him that wickets “ebb and flow” and he remains central to building pressure collectively.
England’s desire to play at least one quick in every line-up this summer means at least one of Archer and Wood surely plays. While the latter reportedly looked strong in the nets on Wednesday, despite a recent unspecified injury niggle, the former’s speeds have been queried through his second season in international cricket.
Root said: “You have to trust Jofra and keep giving him opportunities to show off how good a player he is. One thing he is is a performer, someone who can light up the stage. He might be – and I don’t know for sure – missing the crowd, the atmosphere in the ground and feeding off that. Like Jimmy, it won’t be long before we see a big performance from him. We’re all desperate to see him do well.
“‘I think with Jofra he will go through phases where he’s not always operating up at 90mph. All we can ask of him is that he keeps putting in, showing the desire to get better day in, day out and that effort to keep getting up there towards those speeds.”
Victory this week would not only see England claim the series with a match to spare but take Root to 24 wins in the job, level with former captains Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook and two behind Michael Vaughan's record of 26 as skipper.
Root, who admitted to tactical errors last week, added: “I’ll worry about that [RECORD]when I’m 60 years old and in the pub with my mates. Right now it’s about us winning games and getting to No 1, not personal achievements. We’re not perfect, we’re well aware of that, but we’re desperate to improve.
“You will see bumps in the road and we saw that last game, but one thing that was clear: in the past we fell away when we went behind but this time around – and in the recent past – we’ve found a way to hang in. That’s a great sign.” – Guardian