England’s record wicket-taker James Anderson will sit out the Ashes opener in Brisbane after England opted to hold him back as a precaution.
The 39-year-old seamer had been widely expected to lead the attack against Australia at The Gabba on Wednesday and trained at full intensity in the tourists’ last major practice session two days out.
A report in The Cricketer suggested Anderson’s absence came after he picked up a minor calf problem, but a team spokesperson said the decision was instead a question of pragmatism rather than fitness.
Rain ruined much of England’s planned warm-up programme and, with precious little breathing room between games in a congested series, Anderson will not be risked in the curtain-raiser. Looming large in that decision is the memory of the 2019 Ashes, when he suffered a recurrence of a previous calf issue on the first morning of the first Test.
That left England a man down for the remainder of the match and Anderson played no further part in the series, which was drawn 2-2 as Australia retained the urn.
“Jimmy is fit to play, and is not carrying an injury. With five Tests in six weeks the plan was to get him ready for the second Test in Adelaide,” said a team spokesperson.
“With the limited build-up we have had so far on the tour, both him and the management didn’t want to take the risk of him playing after what had happened in 2019 at Edgbaston, when he broke down on the first morning. He bowled at full capacity yesterday for just short of an hour and was in a good place physically.
“He will do the same again today at practice. He will stay with the Test group this week and work with the coaches at The Gabba.”
With more bad weather forecast in the coming days and Anderson viewed as crucial for the second Test – where the pink Kookaburra is expected to swing under the floodlights – England have gambled on leaving out their most reliable performer.
He takes with him huge reserves of class and control – as well as the small matter of 632 Test wickets in Anderson’s absence – but his likely stand-in, Chris Woakes, offers much of the same qualities.
Perhaps importantly, the Warwickshire man is also an accomplished batter and stiffens the lower order considerably.
England could field an all seam attack of Stuart Broad, Woakes, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood, but will probably name spinner Jack Leach in their 12-strong squad as back-up.