Listen to Jimmy Anderson and it sounds as if he bowled a never-ending stream of long hops and full tosses throughout the Test at Old Trafford, which was definitely not the case. But his standards are high; he did not meet them and now he seems almost eager to share his disappointment, as well as quashing any suggestion that he might be contemplating calling an end to the most illustrious of careers.
“It’s been a frustrating week for me personally,” he said. “I’ve not bowled very well and felt out of rhythm. For the first time in probably ten years I got a little bit emotional on the field. In the second innings in particular a chance went down and I let it get to me. I just felt I wasn’t bowling to the standards I set myself. It reminded me of when I first started playing. When you get frustrated and a little bit angry you try and bowl quicker and quicker and it doesn’t help. Now I’ll just try to work hard and hope I get the nod for the next game”.
The hard work for Anderson begins with some self examination; he will also consult with Chris Silverwood, once the bowling coach and now the man in charge, and it is obvious that Anderson respects his input. In addition he has another advisor who is usually standing at mid-off as he sets off to bowl yet another over in Test cricket. “I’ll be talking to Broady as well to see if he can spot anything. It feels like we have been each other’s coaches for so long now. We try to help each other as best we can”.
After 154 Test matches Anderson retains an almost boyish enthusiasm for the game. He is very keen to play at the Ageas Bowl this week – even though he speculated earlier this summer that it would be unrealistic for the pacemen to play more than four Tests (so far he has played three) in this crammed schedule. I’m reminded of Ian Botham in Wellington, New Zealand in 1992 on the eve of a Test match rushing up to me like an excited schoolkid and confiding “Pring’s injured; I think I might get a game” (Botham had joined the tour late after pantomime duties and was not expecting any Test cricket before the World Cup campaign).
Anderson does not wish to dwell on any retirement plans – or pantomime gigs. He wants to keep playing “as long as I possibly can”. To play in another Ashes series is still an ambition, rather than an obsession. But he adds: “If I keep bowling the way I did this week the opportunity to retire will be taken out of my hands. It will be a selection issue. I’m still hungry to play the game. I think the frustration for me this week was that after one bad game the whispers started going round. I don’t think that’s really fair.”
So the desire to keep playing at the highest level clearly remains. “Experiencing a win like that is why we play the game,” he says. However, there is no guarantee that Anderson will be selected on Thursday, even though he obviously wants to be. He did not bowl that badly at Old Trafford but the signs that he was out of kilter were evident – especially when he kicked the turf after that dropped catch off his bowling with as much force as a disgruntled Angus Fraser. He may be due some rotation. But there will be more Tests ahead. “154 sounds like quite a lot of games”, he says. “But I still feel like I’ve still got quite a few more left in me”. He may yet surpass the record held by his old friend and colleague Alastair Cook, who played 161 Tests.
One definite absentee at the Ageas Bowl will be Ben Stokes, who is heading off to New Zealand “It’s a big blow for us because he’s a big part of our team on the field and off it,” says Anderson. “Obviously family comes first and we will all rally around him and support him as best we can. We’ve got two games left to play and we’re confident in the guys we’ve got here.”