England’s failure to reclaim the Ashes in a home series for the first time in almost two decades can in part be put down to unhelpful pitches, according to the team’s senior fast bowler James Anderson. While a calf injury limited Anderson’s involvement to bowling just four overs in the first Test at Edgbaston, he suggested that the playing surfaces have better suited Australia’s attack and said local groundsmen might consider being “a little bit more biased” towards England in future.
Defeat on Anderson’s home ground of Old Trafford last week left England 2-1 down in the Specsavers Test series and unable to prise back the urn from Australia. While Anderson gave a nod towards Steven Smith for his “phenomenal” batting – in three Test appearances Smith has scored 671 runs, almost twice as many as anyone else – he said England had been disappointed by the pitches served up and that more could be done to exploit home advantage.
“I think they’ve probably suited Australia more than us,” he said. “I would have liked to have seen a bit more grass but that’s the nature of the game here. When you’re selling out – like Lancashire selling out five days of Test cricket – it’s hard not to produce a flat deck but, you know, that’s one of the frustrations from a player’s point of view. We go to Australia and get pitches that suit them. They come over here and get pitches that suit them. It doesn’t seem quite right.
“I thought they were good pitches here against India [last year]. I thought they weren’t green seamers but I thought they suited us more than India. We as a country don’t use home advantage enough. When you go to Australia, go to India, Sri Lanka, they prepare pitches that suit them. I feel like we could just be a little bit more biased towards our own team.”
Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, in particular, have led the way for Australia, taking 24 wickets at 17.41 and 18 at 16.88 respectively – separated only by Stuart Broad (19 at 26.63) for England. It has been a bowlers series in general, with only two Australians (Smith and Marnus Labuschagne) and three Englishmen (Ben Stokes, Rory Burns and Joe Root) averaging above 30 with the bat.
In contrast to Anderson’s lugubrious take, Australia coach Justin Langer was perhaps unsurprisingly full of praise for the “bowler-friendly wickets” on which his team had prevailed in their mission to retain the Ashes.
“It’s most important for the health of Test cricket moving forward that you’re playing on competitive wickets,” he said ahead of the final Test at The Oval. “Great players make runs, games always moving forward, you’re on the edge of your seat. I think the wickets this series have been fantastic for that.”
Anderson’s frustrations have been compounded by being forced to watch from the sidelines after suffering from a persistent calf problem that saw him hobble through the first Test at Edgbaston, having being declared fit, then suffer a recurrence while going about his rehabilitation with Lancashire.
There is little doubt that not being able to call upon the most-prolific Test fast bowler in history has hurt England’s chances – despite the resurgence of Broad and a potent display from Jofra Archer in his debut series. However, Anderson has quietened any expectations he may be contemplating retirement, writing in his newspaper column that he intends to try and play on until he is 40.
He proclaimed himself “open-minded” to making changes to his diet and lifestyle in order to prolong his career; perhaps a chat about the benefits of veganism with old Ashes foe Peter Siddle is in order following the conclusion of the series?
“When I start this rehab, I’m going to try and investigate every possible avenue of what do I need to do at my age to keep myself in good shape,” Anderson said. “I feel in really good condition. I feel as fit as I ever have. It’s just the calf keeps twanging.
“I’m going to look at every possible thing I can to make sure I can play for as long as possible. I’ll look at how other sportspeople have done it throughout their careers to keep going into their late 30s. Whether there’s anything specific I can do, diet, gym programme, supplements, whatever it might be. Because I’ve still got a real hunger and desire to play cricket. I still love the game and still feel like I can offer something to this team and still have the skills and can bowl quick enough to have a positive effect.
“It’ll be an ongoing process through the rest of my career. I still feel like I can be the best bowler in the world. So as long as I’ve got that mentality I’m going to keep pushing myself. Keep trying to improve my skills with the ball, work hard at my batting, and try to find every possible thing to help me stay fit.”
“We as a country don’t use home advantage enough. When you go to Australia, go to India, Sri Lanka, they prepare pitches that suit them. I feel like we could just be a little bit more biased towards our own team”
Anderson’s first goal is to be available for the two Tests in New Zealand towards the back-end of November, after which comes a tour of South Africa. His desire to keep playing means he is set to feature under a fifth different England coach – depending on when the successor to Trevor Bayliss is appointed – and he suggested the new management needed to map out with Joe Root a pathway to rebalancing priorities between Test and limited-overs cricket.
“Going forward, it’s important whoever takes over has got the same sort of vision as Joe as captain, on how the team moves forward. Obviously the last four years has been a real focus on one-day cricket, trying to win the World Cup. We’ve now done that.
“I think we need to find a good balance. We’ve kind of been one or the other. In my career, it’s been Test priority in the first bit and then this last four-year cycle has been a push for the white-ball stuff. We need to find a balance, it’s as simple as that. We’ve got to try to give equal attention to both.”
Whether or not he develops a craving for bananas, Anderson’s appetite for cricket remains strong – though he grimaces wearily at the idea of resuming battle with Smith once again in 2021-22. There is an acceptance that he won’t go on forever, an understanding that one day, perhaps not too far in the future, he will be able to inspect a flat pitch with a shake of the head before heading towards the media facilities rather than the dressing rooms.
“I’m realistic. If I’m not good enough and feel I’m detracting from the team and I’m too slow, or whatever it might be, then I’m not going to embarrass myself or drag the team down. I’ll only keep playing if I think I can be one of the best bowlers in the world and if I think I can help this team win games of Test cricket. I’m not just blinkered thinking I’m going to just drag out as many possible games as I can.”
James Anderson was speaking on behalf of ‘The Test Experts’ Specsavers, Official Test Partner of the England cricket team ahead of the final Test of the Specsavers Ashes Series at The Oval
Dhawan replaced by Shaw and Samson for New Zealand tour
Prithvi Shaw could be in line for an ODI debut in New Zealand having replaced the injured Shikhar Dhawan for the three-match series set to begin on February 5. Both teams play a five-match T20I series prior to that, for which Sanju Samson has been picked as the BCCI confirmed Dhawan, who was first-choice opener before a grade two injury to his shoulder, will report to the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore for rehabilitation.
Shaw, who made a Test century on debut in 2018, is already in New Zealand with the India A team and has been in excellent form. The 20-year old opener struck a compelling 150 against New Zealand A in a warm-up game on Sunday to follow a double-hundred for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. He did suffer a minor injury scare a few weeks ago, having fallen on his shoulder while fielding, but judging by that hundred in Lincoln, which included 22 fours and two sixes, there appears to be little discomfort.
Shaw has been on an upward track since his return from doping violation in November 2019. His first innings back was a half-century which he celebrated by pointing at his back and then making a talking gesture. The BCCI, while imposing a back-dated sanction, said Shaw had accidentally taken a forbidden substance commonly found in cough syrups. Should he make it to the XI during this three-match series against New Zealand, he will make his ODI debut in the same place where he led India to the Under-19 World Cup title in 2017. Outside of his inclusion, India kept faith in the same squad that beat Australia 2-1 at home.
Samson, meanwhile, has been on the fringes of national selection for several years. The wicketkeeper batsman played his first international in July 2015 and that had been his only game for India until earlier this month when he made the squad for the T20I series against Sri Lanka. Both Samson and Shaw may yet be confined to the reserves considering India still have Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul to open the batting and Rishabh Pant to keep wicket.
Mohammed Shami is the only other addition to the T20I squad that beat Sri Lanka 2-0. He has shown great improvement in his limited-overs skills, some of which were display on his last tour of New Zealand when he picked up nine wickets from four ODIs. He joined a fast-bowling line-up which includes Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur. India were spoiled for choice in the spin department as well with Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar all part of the squad for the five-match T20I series.
Ryan ten Doeschate steps down as captain of Essex
Ryan ten Doeschate has stepped down as captain of reigning county champions Essex after four seasons at the helm.
In an open letter to the club he led to three Championship titles in four campaigns – once in Division two and twice in the top flight – the 39-year-old ten Doeschate said the captaincy had been “the biggest privilege”.
“Now is the right time for someone new to take charge,” ten Doeschate said in the letter, published on the club’s website on Tuesday. “I’d like to thank all our Members and supporters in general who have followed the team over the last four years. I hope we’ve provided much entertainment and that you’ve shared in our pride of representing the club.”
Ten Doeschate, who continued to represent Netherlands at T20 level through last year, will continue to play for Essex after signing a one-year contract extension in October following his side’s tense draw in a rain-affected final match of the 2019 season against nearest rivals Somerset which sealed them the Division One title.
Ten Doeschate thanked current Essex coach Anthony McGrath and England head coach Chris Silverwood, with whom he took Essex back into the top tier of the Championship by winning Division Two in their first season as skipper and coach respectively, in 2016. Ten doeschate and Silverwood also led Essex to the Division One title in 2017 before McGrath assumed the club’s head coaching role.
“I would like to pay tribute to an incredible bunch of players who have given everything to the team over the last four years and to whom I will always be indebted for allowing me to live out my cricket dream,” ten Doeschate added. “I can’t wait to join the troops, focus on my batting, and to give the new captain all of my support in continuing to try to get the best out of our great club.”
Ten Doeschate captained the side for 58 first-class matches, winning 33 and losing just eight. Having captained the club across formats from 2016 to 2018, he relinquished the T20 captaincy to Simon Harmer last year. Ten doeschate has represented the club 477 times in all formats, scoring 27 hundreds and taking more than 300 wickets in the process.
McGrath described ten Doeschate as “a phenomenal” club captain.
“His commitment and dedication to the club is second to none, and if you look at the position Essex were in before he took over and compare it to where they are now, a lot of that rise is down to Ryan,” McGrath said. “Now is the right time for someone else to take the reins and lead the team.
“It’s important to remember that Ryan isn’t stepping away from Essex, he’s still very much part of this club and I’m sure he will continue to have a positive presence both on and off the field.”
Quinton de Kock named captain, as Lungi Ngidi, Temba Bavuma return to South Africa ODI squad
Du Plessis’ absence from the squad is notable, given the pressure he has been under during the Test series and the social media storm surrounding his comments about Temba Bavuma, who is back in the squad after answering du Plessis’ call of “weight of runs” with a first-class best of 180 last week.
Du Plessis said on Monday, after South Africa’s defeat by an innings and 53 runs in Port Elizabeth, that the fourth Test at the Wanderers could be his last on home soil.
“There isn’t a lot of Test cricket left this year,” du Plessis said. “There’s one massive Test where we need everyone to be as strong as possible to try and draw the series. After that, there is quite a big gap and there is an opportunity then to release some of the captaincy when it comes to giving guys opportunities, especially in one-day cricket.”
De Kock made his international debut in December 2012 after an impressive showing at that year’s U19 World Cup in Australia and was called up into the ODI squad just a month later. He boasts 115 ODI caps with 4,907 runs at an average of 45.01, including 14 centuries and 24 fifties. De Kock is South Africa’s highest run-scorer so far after three of the four Tests against England with 265 runs at 44.16 but the manner of some of his dismissals, to rash shot-making, has drawn criticism.
CSA Acting Director of Cricket Graeme Smith believes the new leadership role would “bring out the best” in de Kock.
“We all know the quality of the player that Quinton de Kock has grown to become,” Smith said. “Over the years, we have watched him grow in confidence and become one of the top ODI wicket-keeper batsmen in the world.
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“He has a unique outlook and manner in which he goes about his business and is tactically very street smart. We wish him the very best in this new role and look forward to watching him make his mark in this series against the World Cup Champions.”
Ngidi was ruled out of the current Test series against England after suffering a hamstring tear during the Mzansi Super League play-offs in December. His final selection in the 15-man ODI squad is dependent on passing a fitness test at the Centre of Excellence in Pretoria before the squad assembles in Cape Town on January 31 with the first fixture of the three-match series starting on February 4. Three other players – Sisanda Magala, Tabraiz Shamsi and Jon Jon Smuts – will also have to pass fitness tests.
Bavuma, who is expected to be recalled for the fourth Test starting in Johannesburg on Friday, confirmed his readiness after missing the first three Tests against England by producing a career-best first-class score of 180 for Lions in a four-day Franchise Series match against Dolphins last week.
Five players – Lutho Sipamla, Sisanda Magala, Bjorn Fortuin, Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne – received their maiden ODI squad call-ups, with Malan in particular impressing as an opener for Cape Town Blitz in the Mzansi Super League.
CSA Independent Selector Linda Zondi said the squad reflected a changing of the guard. “The road towards the 2023 Cricket World Cup starts now and we want players doing well in our domestic structures to see the rewards of the hard work that they have put in.
“The pool that we build going forward is going to be vital in the selection of that 2023 World Cup squad but also without looking too far ahead, we are confident that we have players that will make South Africa proud in this ODI series against a confident England team.”
South Africa squad: Quinton de Kock (capt), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Jon Jon Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lutho Sipamla, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Sisanda Magala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreynne.
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