Anderson eases injury fears
England are optimistic James Anderson will be fit to play in the fourth npower Test against India at the Kia Oval, according to captain Andrew Strauss.
The in-form seamer picked up a minor thigh injury at Edgbaston in the previous Test, prompting England to call up Graham Onions as cover.
However, Anderson, who trained but did not bowl yesterday, bowled at near full pace for half an hour in the nets this morning without apparent discomfort in the right leg he had reported stiffness in. He then took part in a short session of sprint training.
“We are very optimistic he’s fit to play,” said Strauss. “He had a good bowl today, but like all these things we have to check how he comes up tomorrow morning. It just seems nothing more than a little niggle at this stage.”
Anderson has led the attack with aplomb in this series, taking 18 wickets.
“He’s been very much the leader of our attack for the last couple of years and he’s been outstanding in that role,” continued Strauss.
“But we’ve had to deal with Stuart Broad being injured, Chris Tremlett being injured - and people have come in and done well.
“That’s always the challenge for you as a side - to make sure you’ve got the strength in depth to be able to mitigate against any sort of injury. If and when we have to deal with that, we’ll deal with it.”
Strauss did not seek to deny that Anderson is a key presence, but has faith too in others to up their game if necessary.
“He’s very important, not just for the tone he sets but for his relationship with the other bowlers," he added, "But you can’t rely on one person.
“That’s one of the things we’ve been good at - we’ve not relied on one or two people to win us a Test match. We’ve had performances from all 11.”
Onions returned to the England set-up following his recovery from a career-threatening back injury, which prevented him playing last season. His last international appearance was on England’s 2009-10 tour of South Africa.
“It's great to see Onions back in the squad,” Strauss added. “He played a very significant part in the 2009 Ashes win and we all have high regard for him as a bowler. With him and Steven Finn, there is definitely strength in depth.”
England secured the series and top spot in the International Cricket Council Test rankings at Edgbaston last week, but Strauss insisted his players will not be relaxing when they round off their Test summer.
“We will approach it in the same way as we would any other Test,” he said.
“We’re desperate to finish the summer on a high. The work ethic over the last couple of days has been good and encouraging and I’d be very disappointed if we took our foot off the gas.
“It’s always been a long-term goal to get number one so it was a special moment to achieve it. We celebrated that we’d achieved one of our goals, but now we’re back training again rankings become secondary to what you do on a day-to-day basis.
“We try and win every match we play and then rankings look after themselves.
“We’ve got to challenge ourselves to keep improving and working hard to improve. There’s always the temptation to take the foot off the gas and feel comfortable with what you’ve done.
“But that’s not the nature of international sport; you’ve got to keep pushing forward.”
Having reached the top of the Test ladder, England are now targeting a long stay at the summit.
It has been questioned as to whether they can dominate as well as West Indies did in the 1980s and Australia did in the last decade, but Strauss is not looking that far ahead.
“Those teams created a great legacy by playing that well for a decade,” he added.
“We’ve done it for the last couple of years. We’re not trying to be seen as anything; (we're) just trying to play as well as we can. What happens as a result of that, we will be able to look back on in years to come.”
One thing Strauss hopes is England will never again be the butt of jokes.
“The days of English cricket being kind of a laughing stock have gone - for good, we hope - for all sorts of reasons,” he said.
“It’s not just our play on the park - the whole structure and set-up has improved dramatically. The challenge for us all is to make sure that continues.”
Much has changed since England slipped to the bottom of the then unofficial rankings in 1999, and Strauss is determined to make sure the good times continue.
“Now is very much a time to keep that improvement going,” he added. “It’s not a time to take the foot off the gas and be satisfied with ourselves.
“We’re going to be judged by higher standards now as a result of getting to number one, and it’s going to be harder and harder to stay there.
“Now’s the time for us to keep our feet firmly on the ground and keep doing what’s got us to this position - if anything, redoubling our efforts to keep improving. That’s always the challenge.”