No rest for James Anderson as he seeks satisfaction in Sri Lanka ‘challenge’

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James Anderson has admitted he feels he “hasn’t quite cracked” the challenge of bowling with the Kookaburra ball.

Despite recently overtaking Glenn McGrath to become the most prolific seam bowler in the history of Test cricket, Anderson accepts that his record at home – where he has claimed 368 Test wickets as a cost of 23.76 apiece – is far better than his record away (196 wickets at 32.62). One of the reasons for that home success is the use of the Duke’s ball, which swings for longer than the Kookaburra and other varieties, in England’s home Tests.

Partly as a result of that, Anderson had no hesitation in declining the opportunity of skipping the tour of Sri Lanka. While he knows there may be some tough days ahead, he said he gains more satisfaction from “a good day here” than when “bowling on a green seamer in England in April”.

There had been talk ahead of the tour that either Anderson or Stuart Broad, perhaps even both of them, could be rested in order to protect them in light of the challenges ahead – notably an Ashes series in England in 2019 – and to take a look at their possible successors.

Anderson also acknowledged that, aged 36, he may not have many more opportunities for such tours and that with his white-ball career behind him – at international level, at least – the workload expected of him and Broad was far more manageable.

“There was a question asked if I was keen to go on tour in the winter and I said, ‘Yes’,” Anderson said. “And that was pretty much the end of it.

“The amount of cricket I play at the moment – and Stuart Broad would say the same for himself – means there’s no reason why we can’t be fit for all the Test cricket. We don’t play any white-ball cricket and there are plenty of gaps in between Test series for us to rest and recuperate and get fit for the next one.

“It may be my last trip to Sri Lanka – or my penultimate one, anyway [England return in early 2020] – it’s a great place to tour and I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

“It is a huge challenge for seam bowlers out here, but when you have a good day here you get more satisfaction than bowling on a green seamer in England in April. When you’re dripping with sweat, covered in mud, you know you’ve had a hard day, I think you get more out of that. You’ve put in the hard yards for the team.

“The surfaces are very dry and the two we have played on this week have been really flat, too. So it’s a challenge. And the different challenges the Kookaburra ball brings are something I feel I haven’t quite cracked. That’s something for me to keep trying to work on.”

Anderson also pointed out that he and Broad were the only two members of the England squad to have been part of a Test tour of Sri Lanka and suggested, with three spinners expected to play in Galle, the workloads for seamers should mitigate against any need to rotate them during the series. He did concede, however, that one or other of them may have to accept missing out in a Test or two.

“You can’t go into a game thinking the spinners are going to do everything,” he said. “When we won in India [in 2012] the seamers still had a big role. We have to use that new ball – it will swing for the first 10 overs or so – so we have to make their batsmen play as much as possible.

“Stuart and I are the only ones who have made a Test tour here before. So it’s down to us to pass on as much information as we can.

“In terms of selection, you have to go with the conditions. On present history, we think it’s going to spin. There will probably be some tough decisions to make. Stuart and I are well aware of that. It’s international sport and you have to take it on the chin if you’re not selected.

“But we want to keep improving as a team and to win. I don’t see the workloads being too much, so we’ll try and play our strongest XI every game.

“It would be huge, a really big achievement to win here.”

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