‘It was just one bad game’

Eng­land pace­man has no plans to re­tire – and tar­gets the Ashes

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Nick Hoult CHIEF CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT

James An­der­son has ad­mit­ted he can­not af­ford an­other per­for­mance sim­i­lar to his in the first Test against Pak­istan, oth­er­wise the Eng­land se­lec­tors will take the de­ci­sion about re­tire­ment “out of my hands”.

An­der­son used a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day to re­it­er­ate that he wanted to carry on play­ing for Eng­land and was not about to re­tire af­ter what he de­scribed as a “bad game” in Manch­ester, where he took only one wicket in two in­nings and was vis­i­bly an­gry with his per­for­mance. It has left the 38-year-old un­sure of his place for the sec­ond Test this week, as Eng­land pon­der ro­ta­tion.

It sparked ru­mours of re­tire­ment, with An­der­son hav­ing taken only six wick­ets this sum­mer at an av­er­age of 41.16, and a strike rate of one wicket ev­ery 92 balls, his worst at home.

He did not bowl that badly in Manch­ester but ad­mit­ted he let a dropped catch by Ben Stokes off his bowl­ing get to him, a sign of the in­creas­ing pres­sure he is putting on him­self to prove he is not fin­ished yet.

“It’s been a frus­trat­ing week for me per­son­ally,” he said. “I’ve not bowled very well and felt out of rhythm. For the first time in prob­a­bly 10 years I got a lit­tle bit emo­tional on the field, got a bit frus­trated, let it get to me a lit­tle bit.

“It re­minded me of when I first started play­ing, when you get frus­trated and a lit­tle bit an­gry you try and bowl quicker and quicker and it doesn’t help.”

“It was one bad game and I’m sure I’ll have an­other bad game in my ca­reer. I just don’t want ev­ery time I have a bad game for there to be whis­pers go­ing around that I’m go­ing to pack in.

“For me it’s about try­ing to find a way of deal­ing with that, deal­ing with the out­side noise. I’ve done that well in my ca­reer, but it’s a bit dif­fer­ent now.”

Com­ing back for sec­ond spells is when the in­juries and 18 years of Test match bowl­ing have a sap­ping ef­fect. An­der­son has taken 12 sec­ond-in­nings wick­ets in his past 14 matches since Au­gust 2018 and none in four games this sum­mer.

Eng­land showed they still be­lieved An­der­son was in their first-choice at­tack, pick­ing him for the third Test against West Indies, when coach Chris Sil­ver­wood vowed to se­lect his best bowlers to win the se­ries.

An­der­son re­mains clear that he wants to carry on to the next Ashes se­ries. He will be 39 by the time that starts, in Novem­ber 2021, and he has strug­gled on Aus­tralian pitches bowl­ing with the Kook­aburra ball.

It is pace that Eng­land need in Aus­tralia. Most great play­ers deny re­tire­ment un­til the con­stant spec­u­la­tion over their fu­ture be­comes too drain­ing, espe­cially when com­bined with poor form.

Alas­tair Cook went into the 2018 sum­mer pub­licly deny­ing sug­ges­tions of re­tire­ment but bowed out in the fifth Test against In­dia that Septem­ber.

When asked if he wanted to play in the next Ashes, An­der­son said: “Yes, ab­so­lutely. It’s not like that’s a fo­cus of mine; I want to play as long as I pos­si­bly can.

“If I keep bowl­ing the way I did this week, the op­por­tu­nity to re­tire will be taken out of my hands. It will be a se­lec­tion is­sue. I’m still hun­gry to play the game. I think the frus­tra­tion for me this week was that, af­ter one bad game… the sort of whis­pers that go around. I don’t think that’s re­ally fair. But, for me, I’m still hun­gry.”

Eng­land are due to tour In­dia this win­ter for five Tests. The se­ries is likely to be cut to three or four Tests and could be played in the United Arab Emi­rates, depend­ing on the state of the pan­demic. An­der­son has a good record in the UAE but was left out of the team on the last tour to In­dia with a bowl­ing av­er­age of 53.

Eng­land have to build for the fu­ture, and could leave him out of the squad for In­dia but still keep him on a cen­tral con­tract to play in home con­di­tions next sum­mer.

That would give him the chance of a proper farewell if the pan­demic is un­der con­trol and crowds are back. An­der­son com­mands so much re­spect within the Eng­land set-up that they will be re­luc­tant to make the de­ci­sion for him, hop­ing he will know when he has had enough.

An­der­son is 10 short of be­com­ing the first seam bowler to take 600 Test wick­ets, and eight Tests from over­tak­ing Cook’s record for the most Eng­land caps. He ex­pected to hit the 600 mark this sum­mer, but if he does not play in the sec­ond Test this week then it is likely to hang over him for much longer.

“If I get 600 wick­ets then great; if I don’t, then I’m happy with what I’ve got. I know I can per­form bet­ter than I did this week.

“I want to keep get­ting bet­ter and keep help­ing Eng­land win games of cricket,” he said.

“I still can’t quite be­lieve the num­ber that’s next to my name when the teams go up on the TV, 154 does sound like quite a lot of games. If I can go past Cooky it will prob­a­bly be the one thing I’ve got up on him.

“Se­lec­tion is out of my hands, I’ve got to work hard and show that I’m bowl­ing well. I didn’t feel like I bowled poorly in the West Indies se­ries. Ev­ery­one has a bad game, I’m sure I will have more bad games. It’s try­ing to keep a pos­i­tive men­tal at­ti­tude.”

‘If I bowl like I did this week, the op­por­tu­nity to re­tire will be taken out of my hands’

Time out: James An­der­son (fourth left) ad­mit­ted to hav­ing had a ‘frus­trat­ing’ first Test

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