James Anderson has said he hopes to be fit for England’s tour of Sri Lanka next month, having returned to training following the rib injury he suffered in South Africa. There have been suggestions that the 37-year-old would be rested from the two Sri Lanka Tests, but Anderson indicated that he would make himself available and leave the decision up to the selectors.
Anderson played the first two Tests in South Africa, his first cricket in almost five months having broken down during the Ashes with a calf strain. He claimed 5 for 40 in the first innings in Cape Town – a record-breaking 28th five-wicket haul for England – as England levelled the series, but was then ruled out of the rest of the tour.
“It’s all healed, I’ve been training for a few weeks now, getting my bowling back up to speed and I feel really good,” he told Sky Sports. “It was frustrating when it happened, it was a bit of a freak incident, but thankfully now it’s all healed and I feel much better.
“That’s the aim, to try and get fit for whatever’s next – at the moment that’s Sri Lanka. It’s hard to prove your fitness in the indoor school at Old Trafford. With a broken bone, you’re waiting for that to heal. I’ve not lost any fitness, it’s just about building my bowling back up now, still got a month before that tour, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the selectors think.”
England’s leading Test wicket-taker, Anderson has repeatedly said he hopes to play on for as long as his body will allow. He admitted “there’s always that element of doubt in your mind” about his comeback in Centurion, having pulled up during the Edgbaston Test in August after just four overs. But said his confidence quickly returned in South Africa, where he felt as “strong and quick as I have for a long time” after lengthening his run-up during injury rehab.
“I felt like in Cape Town I hit my straps,” he said, “I was bowling as well as I ever had, feeling in as good a conditions as I ever have. [Even when you’ve] been after playing for all these years it’s still nice to know you’ve got something to offer and being able to get five wickets away from home was special.
“I felt like I was in really good rhythm, strong and as quick as I have been for a long time. I’ve lengthened my run up a bit, to help with my calf issues. I’ve kept the same mark but gone about five or six seven yards back, and that allows me to gradually build up momentum rather than trying to set off too quick. Similar to what Mark Wood did, and that seems to have helped me get into rhythm much better.”
After securing a 3-1 series win in South Africa, along with 90 World Test Championship points, England’s next challenge will come on the slower, more spin-friendly pitches of Sri Lanka. There have been indications that England were willing to leave Anderson, along with senior new-ball partner Stuart Broad, at home for that tour, but with Jofra Archer now ruled out by an elbow stress fracture and continuing concerns over the durability of Mark Wood, that thinking could change.
Ed Smith, the national selector, is set to announce his touring party on Monday, and Anderson said that he felt the calendar allowed him sufficient opportunities for rest between series. After the Sri Lanka tour, which finishes at the end of March, England’s next Test commitment is against West Indies in June.
“If I’m fit I want to be playing for England, wherever that might be,” Anderson said. “I showed in South Africa I can still do it abroad. I’ve been unlucky a little the last few months with injuries but my record before that’s been pretty good injury-wise. I’m hopeful I can keep fit for as long as possible, if I’m fit I want to be playing wherever England are.
“Because I don’t pay one-day cricket I think there’s enough rest there naturally to be available for most series and most games. The last few months have been different because I have been injured. But that’s not something that’s been an issue for me before. Going forward, as I said, there’s enough break naturally between series to get myself fit and prepare for the next series.”