James Anderson has been described by his team-mate Stuart Broad as “a bit distraught” after experiencing a recurrence of tightness in his right calf that is likely to prevent him from bowling for the remainder of the first Test.
Anderson, the leading wicket-taker in England’s Test history, first tore his right calf muscle while playing for Lancashire against Durham in Sedburgh on July 2. While the England management was confident he had fully recovered from the injury, he experienced further discomfort during his fourth over of the match at Edgbaston and left the field for treatment.
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While he returned to the pitch a short while later, he did not bowl again, and underwent a scan on Thursday afternoon. If that scan shows any new tear, there is a strong chance that Anderson will be ruled out of the next two or three Tests. Even if it does not, it’s hard to imagine that England will risk worsening the injury by asking Anderson to bowl. However, it was confirmed on Friday morning that Anderson would bat. He had done some gentle running during England’s warm-ups.*
“He’s a bit distraught,” Broad said after the end of play on day one. “He came and said sorry to the bowlers. He feels like he’s let the bowling group down, which of course he hasn’t. He’s down and he’s frustrated.”
The news is bound to raise questions about the wisdom of playing Anderson, who celebrated his 37th birthday earlier this week, and the medical advice the management received.
Anderson had, however, bowled without discomfort in training – notably on Monday, when he was one of three players who appeared at an optional net session – though England’s preparations were hit by poor weather and he may not have bowled the number of overs ahead of the game that might have been envisaged. England were forced to train indoors on Tuesday, where most of the seamers did not bowl due to concerns about the risk of impact issues, while the nets were damp on Wednesday, which meant most bowlers having gentle sessions on the outfield.
England were tempted to name Jofra Archer in their team for this first Test. The management reasoned, however, that it would be a risk to go into a game with two bowlers coming back from injury. Mark Wood, another man who had nominally been in England’s Ashes plans, is also likely to be out for the season after a slow recovery from the side strain he sustained in the World Cup final.
If – as is likely – Anderson is unable to bowl for the rest of the game, it will increase the burden on the four remaining frontline bowlers in England’s attack: Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, plus the offspin of Moeen Ali. They were made to toil in Anderson’s first-day absence by a brilliant century from Steven Smith, who led Australia’s recovery from 122 for 8 to 284 all out.
It is not out of the question that Anderson may have bowled his final ball in Ashes cricket. His original calf injury occurred almost four weeks ago, and if he requires a similar spell on the sidelines this time around, his experience in this match suggests that England will not risk playing him without sufficient match practice ahead of the fifth Test at The Oval, which begins on September 12.
*11.10amBST, August 2: The story was updated with news of Anderson being able to bat