Anderson calls for England focus

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James Anderson

James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Mitchell Johnson - one of 17 wickets so far for the Lancastrian this series

England are about to end a second successive year on a high - but just as 12 months ago, there is a major piece of unfinished business to attend to once the next one starts.

This time, Sydney looms larger than either Cape Town or Johannesburg did - especially for James Anderson.

The England fast bowler was unable to help his team protect their 1-0 lead over South Africa at the start of 2010, although he did take eight wickets in the last-ditch draw at Newlands.

Again England lead by just one Test, with one rather than two still to play after the turn of the year, and motivation to seal an outright Ashes triumph is at an all-time high.

Anderson, for one, needs only to think back first to his childhood and youth, and routine defeats against Australia home and away - and then to England’s 5-0 drubbing here at their last attempt four years ago - to instinctively grit his teeth still tighter.

Asked today if he wants to grind Australia into the dirt at the SCG, he said: “Definitely.

“It’s happened too many times [to England] over the past few years - when I was growing up as a kid watching us come over here and struggle, and then being involved in 2006-07 was really tough.”

Should Andrew Strauss’ team complete their mission with a draw or victory next week, few with the remotest interest in the event will need reminding they will have achieved a feat which has proved beyond every England touring side since 1986/87.

“All of us want to go home with a winning series, not just retaining the Ashes,” added Anderson.

“We’re not going to settle for that now.

“We’ve still got a 24-year record that we want to put to bed ... we really want to go on and win this series.”

To do so, England are under orders from coach Andy Flower and Strauss to put the celebrations after their fourth-Test victory in Melbourne out of their thoughts - and concentrate solely on the next and last chapter of the 2010/11 Ashes.

Anderson accepts it may be a little easier said than done to temporarily wipe the MCG out of everyone’s mind.

“We want to wrap this series up 3-1. It’s going to be pretty tough to put the highs we had in Melbourne behind us,” he said.

“We’re delighted with the way we played the last game, delighted with the outcome of retaining the Ashes.

“We celebrated well that night - but now we’ve got to concentrate on the next game.”

Stuart Broad, David Saker and James Anderson

Anderson (right) says bowling coach David Saker (centre) has "been brilliant from the minute he joined us"

Anderson has usurped Steven Finn, rested in Melbourne, as the series’ leading wicket-taker, and has surged past 200 Test victims in his career - but these days, the 28-year-old believes his duties extend beyond merely getting Test batsmen out.

“I love the responsibility I’ve got, opening the bowling and leading the attack,” he explains.

“It’s a pretty important job. Being the most experienced bowler in the team, I think I’ve got not just a job with the ball but also helping out the other guys who come in.”

He cites Tim Bresnan’s 6-75 in his first Test of the winter as a success story for the whole team.

“It could have been hard for someone like Tim Bresnan coming in for the fourth game when he’s sat on the sidelines for the first three, so I felt like it was my responsibility to try and offer him advice if it was necessary.”

Another man who can take pride in England’s consistent performances with the ball is, of course, bowling coach David Saker.

“It’s been really useful to have his experience and his knowledge of Australian conditions,” said Anderson.

“He’s been brilliant from the minute he joined us.

“He should take a lot of credit [for the series result] for the help that he’s given the bowling attack.”

It has been a triumph for Saker and his charges that, up until being ruled out of the final Test after aggravating his broken finger, Australia captain Ricky Ponting has been able to make only 113 runs in eight innings - a paltry return for such a world-class batsman.

Anderson nonetheless believes Ponting’s absence - Michael Clarke will lead the team instead, and Usman Khawaja will bat at number three - is a major blow to Australia.

“I think Ponting will be a huge loss for them,” he said.

“He’s out of form. But he’s a fine player, a wicket we really cherish.”

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