For a test match set in England, you can never discount James Anderson. Such was the case on a bright Thursday morning in Birmingham. And then, this was not just any other test match. It was the first test of The Ashes 2019.
In the build up to it, there was lot of talk about the return of James Anderson. Cricket romanticizers were itching to see Anderson, with an inch perfect seam position, swing the ball on the first morning of a test match- an Ashes test match it would be. It would also see a contest between Anderson and Steve Smith. After the contest between Virat Kohli and Anderson that lit up the India tour of England last year, another mouth-watering battle was lining up.
It all started well at Edgbaston. It went on well until James Anderson bowled 4.2 overs in the test match, when Anderson, clutching his calf, left the field. And for the next couple of days, he did not bowl. Although he came out to bat, there was no news on the injury until Saturday, when England revealed that he will not be bowling for the rest of the match. Steve Smith has scored two centuries, but did not face a ball from Anderson. Not that Smith couldn’t have made them, but it would have been that much more beautiful to watch.
“‘He’s been distraught,’ said Stuart Broad about Anderson after his injury. So has been his team.”
Anderson first tore his right calf muscle while playing for Lancashire against Durham on July 2. Anderson, due to the injury was left out against Ireland, but couldn’t resist himself from participating in probably the last biggest competition in what is left in his glorious career. Neither could England let their best employee out on a medical leave on the dates that were marked as high priority on their calendar.
Jofra Archer, apart from Anderson was also said to have carried an injury before the start of The Ashes. Though he had played a domestic T20 match, England did not wish to risk him in the first test. Jofra Archer, with his immense ability and a promising start to international cricket, would have probably walked into the side. But England were sensible enough to rest him, keeping in mind the long schedule ahead.
But they couldn’t do the same with Anderson. If one of the reasons was the 575 wickets accumulated during 16 magnificent years of playing for England, another might have been Anderson himself, who just wanted to be involved in what could be his final Ashes. A fairy-tale end to his illustrious career was perhaps already scripted in his canny brain, like most of the 575 wickets were already plotted, before he picked them up.
Has James Anderson’s hastiness costed England-
The prospect and the desire to sign off from the grand stage with the fullest of commitments was perhaps so strong that it overlooked the prospect of a sustained injury that could not only hamper the desire, but put the whole team at loss.
Eventually, that is what happened. England, from the ninth over of the match, were a bowler short. Rory Burns’s century might have covered for Anderson’s loss in the first innings, but a target of 398 seems just too steep a slope to climb.
“He’s been distraught,” said Stuart Broad about Anderson after his injury. So has been his team.
James Anderson’s desire to play led to a hasty decision, and did the hastiness cost England the first Test of The Ashes 2019?