James Anderson has been ruled out of the one-off Test against Ireland at Lord’s, starting tomorrow, and is a significant doubt for England’s Ashes opener at Edgbaston in just over a week’s time, after failing to recover from a torn calf muscle.
Anderson has not bowled competitively for almost three weeks, after sustaining a minor tear to his right calf while playing for Lancashire against Durham at Sedburgh on July 2.
Although England had been optimistic about his recovery – with the national selector, Ed Smith, even intimating that he might play with a limited workload during the Ireland match – he did not bowl during England’s training session on Monday, and was missing from the official team photo on Tuesday morning.
His absence opens the way for Warwickshire’s Olly Stone to make his England debut, despite having played just two first-class matches this summer after sustaining a stress fracture of the back ahead of the tour of the Caribbean in February. Somerset’s Lewis Gregory is also in line for a first Test call-up, as part of a four-prong pace attack also featuring Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.
Longer term, however, the injury is a significant concern for England, with the Ashes looming on August 1. They are already set to start the series without Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, both of whom sustained side strains during England’s victorious World Cup campaign, and the absence of Anderson, their all-time leading Test wicket-taker, would be a major blow.
Even though he will be turning 37 on the eve of the Ashes, Anderson remains England’s pre-eminent strike force in English conditions. He claimed 33 wickets in seven Tests in the 2018 home summer, including 24 at 18.12 in England’s 4-1 series win against India, and needs another 25 to become the first fast bowler in history to reach 600 in Tests.
He was also England’s outstanding bowler in their most recent Ashes campaign in Australia, claiming 17 wickets at 27.82, including a five-wicket haul in the second Test in Adelaide.
England’s captain, Joe Root, however, played down the significance of Anderson’s absence.
“Jimmy probably would have been able to get through this Test match but we’re just making sure that he’s absolutely ready. We thought the last thing we want is him carrying a niggle going into a series so we tried to be sensible about it and give him as much time to be 100 percent going into that series – a five-match series. So we’re very confident that he’ll be fit [for Edgbaston].”