History beckons for Anderson as England eye future

West Indies

Big picture: Anderson enters the end-game

It’s been an emotional week already for the grand old men of British sport. At Wimbledon on Thursday, Andy Murray unleashed the waterworks as he bade farewell to Centre Court, with a final acceptance that his flesh was now too weak to sustain his indomitable spirit.

By contrast, that same afternoon at Saint Vulbas, and then at Silverstone three days after that, Mark Cavendish and Lewis Hamilton proved what a champion’s mindset can still achieve when the fates finally decree that you have suffered purgatory for long enough.

And now, we roll through to Lord’s on Wednesday, where another immoveable constant of the British sporting summer will begin his own five-day farewell. As with each of the three men mentioned above, James Anderson has never known when to quit, and were it not for the march of time, he’d have no reason to do so. “I’ve not really got a choice, have I?” he demurred, when asked if he was at peace with the decision to pension him off after this, his 188th Test – even after last week’s stellar haul of 7 for 35 for Lancashire at Southport.

But, as Anderson himself might remember from the circumstances of his own England debut – on this very ground 21 years and a handful of weeks ago – international sport has, at some point, to return to being a young man’s game. Back then, it was Andrew Caddick who never played for his country again, even after claiming ten wickets in England’s previous Test at Sydney in January 2003. If opportunity doesn’t knock at some point for a new generation, then stagnation and frustration become the only true measures of progress.

That’s not quite where England find themselves after a torrid winter tour of India. But, in the wake of their 2-2 Ashes draw and a careless share of the spoils in New Zealand in February, Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum find themselves in unusually urgent need of a series win – a strange state of affairs for a team whose initial success was largely down to their disregard for the end-game.

Hence their changing of the guard, with Bazball’s original pin-up, Jonny Bairstow, being forced to bow to the reality of his fading returns, and Ben Foakes dispatched for his inability to hit the top-notes of aggression that the team ethos demands. Stuart Broad has also sauntered off the stage, 12 months yet only one home Test ago, meaning that the future will be upon this England team almost before it has had time to take stock.

What can West Indies do to knock that future off its stride? Potentially, more than many other teams might muster. For if England’s approach, in essence, has been about an overdose of good vibes, then they are coming up against a team with a proven ability to raise their own game against these particular opponents.

As the current holders of the Richards-Botham Trophy, West Indies have not lost a home series to England in two decades and counting, and if the challenge that awaits them in inclement English weather is likely to be somewhat tougher, then they come armed with a core of significant senior campaigners, not least among them the returning former captain Jason Holder, and a fast-bowling contingent that would be the envy of many of their Test opponents.

Either way, West Indies are not letting the sentiment of the occasion deflect them from their mission, with more than one player expressing their intention to “ruin” Anderson’s farewell. Hopefully the weather doesn’t get there first in the course of an unsettled forecast for the week ahead. There’ll be enough moisture doing the rounds at Lord’s by the time he’s bowled his last.

Form guide

England LLLLW (last five Tests, most recent first)
West Indies WLDLL

In the spotlight: Gus Atkinson and Shamar Joseph

Yeah, yeah, so there’s really only one fast bowler on anyone’s lips right now, but seeing as Anderson loathes the spotlight, it makes sense to pass it over to two of the newest kids on the Test block.

Gus Atkinson has been England’s coming man for the best part of a year already, but after drinks-carrying roles on two senior tours of India – before Christmas for that dismal World Cup campaign and after Christmas for a marginally less dispiriting 4-1 Test defeat – Lord’s will serve as the grand unveiling of a quick who has got a lot of informed onlookers very excited indeed. Over and above his smooth attributes as a 90mph fast bowler, Atkinson’s appetite for the big stage would appear to mark him out. His best displays to date have come when there’s been the most to prove, not least a high-octane duel with Jos Buttler in last year’s Hundred. Dillon Pennington and Matthew Potts are waiting in the wings for when Anderson has bowled his last, but Atkinson has been handed first dibs of the new era.

If Atkinson can make half the impact that Shamar Joseph managed in his maiden Test series, then England will have been extraordinarily well served. After five wickets on debut in a spirited personal display in Adelaide, no performance of recent vintage came close to matching the raw, rapid raucousness with which Joseph followed up in Brisbane, as Australia were scattered to the four corners of their former fortress at the Gabba. His figures of 7 for 68 in 11.5 brutally direct overs were capped by the flattening of Josh Hazlewood’s off stump and a victory gallop for the ages. It’ll be a different level of expectation now, of course – and a wicketless one-off appearance for Lucknow in this year’s IPL was early evidence that his spells won’t all be as straightforwardly joyous. Nevertheless, he arrives as a serious prong in a serious pace attack, and England will be forewarned.

Team news: England ring the changes

No Bairstow, no Foakes, no Tom Hartley, no Mark Wood. Only two of those names are likely to feature again for England as Bazball 2.0 prepares to be unleashed. Instead, re-enter Harry Brook at No. 5, back in situ after missing the India tour due to the death of his grandmother, and welcome aboard the Surrey pairing of Atkinson and Jamie Smith, whose credentials have been bigged up ever since Rob Key witnessed his astonishingly rapid hundred for England Lions in Sri Lanka two winters ago. He does not keep wicket for his county – awkwardly, the man he has replaced has that honour. But then, neither does Shoaib Bashir command a first-team place at Somerset. England are more excited about the ceiling of such players’ potentials, rather than the facts of their current professional status. Mind you, the opposite holds true for the returning Chris Woakes, the reigning Compton-Miller medallist after his heroics in last summer’s Ashes. He’s no more a long-term pick than Anderson, but he does command an average of 11.33 in five previous Tests at Lord’s. Seeing as England haven’t won a full series since 2022, getting that W on the board is still a priority.

England: 1 Zak Crawley, 2 Ben Duckett, 3 Ollie Pope, 4 Joe Root, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Ben Stokes (capt), 7 Jamie Smith (wk), 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Gus Atkinson, 10 Shoaib Bashir, 11 James Anderson

The sad absence of Kemar Roach, who sustained a knee injury on county duty with Surrey, hasn’t dented the quiet self-belief of a West Indies team that may prove to be overly reliant on Kraigg Brathwaite‘s obduracy at the top, but certainly possess more than enough bowling tools to give Stokes’ batters a serious run for their money. The challenge, as so often in recent encounters, comes in the batting. With Mikyle Louis confirmed for a debut at the top of the order – the first player from St Kitts to win a Test cap – four of the top six will have played nine Tests between them. Gudakesh Motie has edged out Kevin Sinclair for the solitary spinner’s berth, with Motie’s recent success against England’s batters in white-ball cricket potentially the clincher.

West Indies 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Mikyle Louis, 3 Kirk McKenzie, 4 Alick Athanaze, 5 Kavem Hodge, 6 Jason Holder, 7 Joshua da Silva (wk), 8 Gudakesh Motie, 9 Alzarri Joseph, 10 Shamar Joseph, 11 Jayden Seales.

Pitch and conditions: Cold and damp is the order of the day

The weather promises to be cold, intermittently showery and distinctly underwhelming. All of which augurs pretty well for the quick bowlers on display, given the old cliché of Lord’s being a venue where you look up, not down. Even by the old ground’s flat-decked reputation, however, this season has been taking the Michael – as Glamorgan’s Sam Northeast can attest after overhauling Graham Gooch’s legendary 333 in April, the previous highest score ever made in NW8. Jayden Seales had a similarly brutal run-out for Sussex against Middlesex at Lord’s in May, when a total of 18 wickets fell in four days.

Stats and trivia: Anderson eyeing his final place in history

  • Anderson, currently on 700 Test wickets, needs nine in the match to overhaul Shane Warne’s mark of 708, and move into second place on the all-time Test wicket-taker’s list, behind Muthiah Muralidaran (800).
  • Stokes, who is expected to be back to full bowling fitness after undergoing knee surgery in November, needs two more wickets to reach 200 in Tests, after spending 17 Tests and nigh on two years in the 190s.
  • Joshua da Silva, West Indies’ keeper, needs eight more runs to reach 1000 in Tests.
  • In the past decade, however, the rivalry has been especially intense at home and away. Since 2015, both teams have won six and lost six out of 15 matches, with a win apiece on their last two visits to England in 2017 and 2020.
  • Quotes

    “This week will all be about Jimmy, and rightly so. But I can tell you that his main focus is about going out there, taking wickets and trying to win this game for England. I’m sure when we’re done here this week, that’s when everything else will take over. But he’s desperate to go out there and put in a winning performance for England.”
    Ben Stokes on Anderson’s swansong

    “It’s a young group, especially the batsmen, they have a lot of time to learn because obviously playing Test cricket it takes a while to really understand. You’re always learning on the job, but it’s a very decent team, for sure.”
    Kraigg Brathwaite backs his side to compete

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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