Chennai: England head coach Chris Silverwood feels James Anderson is in the “best shape of his life” and won’t be surprised if the 38-year-old carries on to lead the team’s pace attack even in his 40s. Anderson blew away the Indian batting with his lethal display of reverse swing on the final day to hand England a massive 227-run win in the opening Test in Chennai.
“He is in the best shape of his life. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed, he’s worked extremely hard in his fitness. And he’s in great shape and he’s bowling beautifully,” the English coach said in a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
Asked if Anderson can push it to 40, he said: “That’s Jimmy’s choice… As long as he’s fit, strong and healthy, and wants to play then he will feel the time for it, doesn’t it?”
Anderson produced one of the best spells of pace bowling, claiming two key wickets of Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane in four balls to trigger India’s collapse.
Despite the heroic show, the 38-year-old is likely to be rested as per England’s rotation policy of their pacers to keep them in shape in the long run. “It is hard (to leave Anderson out), he is a class act, you’ll have to wait and see… But I’m not reluctant to change the winning team,” Silverwood said ahead of the second Test in Chennai from Saturday.
Stuart Board had played the first Test against Sri Lanka while Anderson replaced him in the second in Galle as they blanked the Islanders 2-0 before coming to India. “Broady didn’t play in the last game and we’ve many bowlers here who we could play at any given point,” said Silverwood.
Anderson may have looked fitter and better than ever but with the heat and humid conditions on offer here and keeping with the crammed schedule of the four-match Test series, Silverwood said it’s the best option.
“It’s the best thing to do for the players and it’s the best thing to do for the team and the longevity of it. I mean you run the risk of opposite result being different. But you could play the same team, and the result could still be different…We know India are going to come back hard. We know we’re a very good team. We’ve got the most respect for that, within our camp. And we know that we’re going to prep well again, we’re gonna have the final exams come the next Test match.”
“But I’m not reluctant to change it. I think it’s the best thing to do for us over a long period,” he maintained.
Talking about Anderson’s match-turning spell, Silverwood said: “Yes, it blew the game up and for us. It’s quite remarkable and inspirational to watch that. He came on and he strapped straight away with that swing and be so accurate.
“And he just shows what class act he is really. That went a long way to help us win that game. For the second one, you’ll have to wait and see… He’s a class act,” he said about Anderson’s performance.
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Asked whether they are ready to rotate their spinners as well by bringing in Moeen Ali in place of Dom Bess, he said: “Everything’s on the table. We are rotating the fast bowlers. If we feel we need to do it, then we have the options available to rotate the spin bowlers as well.”
The off-spinner, who took the prized scalp of Virat Kohli in the first innings en route to a match haul of five wickets, bowled a flurry of full tosses in the fourth innings as his performance dropped.
“I’m not worried, to be honest. You know, I mean we’ve had a chat with him afterwards, he’s still in good spirits and you know what everybody has a bad day every now and again. I can accept that it’s not through lack of effort or anything like that. So for me, we get to the nets tomorrow, we’ll work hard again, we’ll find him some rhythm. And surely he can get us wickets.”
English skipper Joe Root, whose double century paved the way for England’s big first innings total, now has 684 runs in three Tests. Root looked extremely comfortable on a spin-friendly track and the English coach attributed that to his deft footwork against the spinners.
“Root’s footwork against the spinners has been excellent for any aspiring batsman who wants to play spin he has given a few masterclasses over the last month. The way he has been positive, the way he has swept, has been excellent, hence the results that have followed,” he said.
The second Test will see crowds up to 15,000 per day at the Chepauk, marking the spectators’ return to the ground for the first amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “To get some noise in the ground again is going to be fantastic. Some sort of normality will give the lads a lift and make more of a buzz. It will be great,” said the head coach.