Jimmy Anderson fancies England’s new buccaneering approach under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum may force Australia to rethink their plans ahead of next summer’s much-anticipated Ashes series.
The 40-year-old has been rested for the third Test against Pakistan in Karachi that gets under way on Saturday, meaning his work for 2022 is done. His mark on this first tour of Pakistan for 17 years is inedible, however, claiming eight wickets at 18 runs apiece to secure England’s unassailable 2-0 lead going into the finale.
A run of eight wins from nine Tests has clearly reinvigorated the evergreen Anderson and though there is a two-Test series in New Zealand in February, plus a one-off Test against Ireland in June, there is obvious intrigue building as to how “Bazball” will fare in the white heat of Ashes cricket.
Asked if Australia will be twitchy about England’s new aggressive approach, something they instigated by inflicting a 4-0 hammering at home this year, Anderson replied: “It’s an interesting one. I texted Tim Southee the other day to congratulate him on becoming New Zealand captain and he was like: ‘I’m not sure I can keep up with you guys.’
“Maybe the Aussies will be more brash than him. But there might be something deep down, where they’re not sure how they’re going to approach it against us. Having played against them a lot, I’m sure they’ll try to come back just as hard as they can.
“The message is the same every week – can we go to another level? Can we keep breaking records? Can we play even more entertaining cricket? I’m sure over the coming months the messages will be the same. And with the talent we have got, we should just keep getting better so that by the time the Ashes does come around, we’ll be in a good place.”
Anderson’s omission in Karachi was a case of keeping him fresh for the challenges ahead, with Will Jacks also dropping out from the series-sealing 26-run win in Multan. Ben Foakes was down to return behind the stumps while, more eye-catchingly, Stokes confirmed an intended Test debut for Leicestershire’s Rehan Ahmed.
In becoming cap number 710, the leg-spinning all-rounder takes the record as England’s youngest ever men’s Test cricketer. Brian Close was 18 years and 149 days when he first played against New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1949 while Ahmed, who has played three first-class matches to date, is 23 days his junior on Saturday.
Anderson, who made his own Test debut in May 2003, a year and three months before Ahmed was born, said: “I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. It’s something he brought up when we were playing the Lions match in Abu Dhabi last month. I was in the slips and he passed the message on: ‘You do realise you made your debut before I was born?’
“I find it quite cool. It does make me feel old but it’s nice I’ve been around long enough, seeing guys like him get a chance.”
Anderson said Stokes was the ideal captain for Ahmed to work with at the start of his international career and is clearly enjoying the new regime himself, having averaged 19 with the ball since the all-rounder took over at the start of the English summer – the lowest average he has managed under the eight men he has played under.
This tour also delivered one of the finest dismissals of Anderson’s record-breaking 675 Test victims to date, the stunner to remove Mohammad Rizwan on day three in Multan that angled in, jagged away from the right-hander off a possible crack in the pitch and pegged back the off-stump.
Anderson added: “I’ve bowled similar deliveries in England where you get that seam movement. And it happens more regularly than it does in Pakistan. So to get that little bit of reverse swing in … and it definitely hit a crack, but it looks great on telly – for me, it’s right up there with one of the best balls I’ve bowled.
“I feel proud of the work I’ve put in over here – 46 overs in the first Test, 22 I think on the last day of that game. That’s as good as I’ve bowled and as important a role as I’ve played in any team, I think, especially in these conditions.”