Cow Corner

England could regret not resting Anderson

Cow Corner

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An audible sigh went up around Eden Park as James Anderson sat slumped over on the ground at the top of his run-up on the morning of day two of the third Test, signalling for treatment.

The bowler signalled for the England physio to come out, and the result was a heavily strapped up left ankle with an anxious Alastair Cook having to come over to see if his strike bowler was okay to continue.

Anderson proceeded to produce an impeccable and menacing spell of fast bowling, picking up the wicket of the well set Kane Williamson for 91 with a jaffa of an outswinger.

The Lancastrian has led England's attack superbly for little reward in a hugely frustrating three-Test stalemate on desperately lifeless and insipid wickets in New Zealand, but to what cost?

Many commented that the injuries to Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen were perhaps timely for their careers as both needed to address long-term problems, and with haste, ahead of back-to-back Ashes series later in the year.

But should England have given Anderson a good rest before the start of a frenetic and demanding summer and the return series Down Under at the end of the year?

The seamer, who is now 30-years-old and with 79 Tests behind him, has looked weary and frustrated for much of the three-match series in New Zealand, slogging away on wickets that have offered little or nothing in return.

England's intention of fielding the strongest possible side throughout the series has been entirely admirable, but there is a strong argument to suggest that Anderson should have been left to get himself ready to lead the bowling attack ahead of the enormous challenges that lie ahead.

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The paceman appeared to be okay on the most part after receiving early treatment in Auckland, but the scare only served to remind everyone how vital he is to England's chances of success in the game's longest format.

Perhaps even more so than Swann, the fast bowler is a crucial component of his side's bowling attack. Captain Alastair Cook can rely upon him to fire consistently, particularly in English conditions with the dark red Dukes ball swinging.

Swann's fitness is not fully guaranteed for the Ashes, neither is Kevin Pietersen's, thus further raising the stakes ahead of an almost unprecedented run of high-profile games with 10 Ashes Tests coming up in quick succession.

Put simply, England cannot afford to lose Anderson, and it would have been a very easy decision for Andy Flower and Cook to make to simply bring in the more-than-competent Graham Onions for the three-match series away from home.

The way the series is going in New Zealand, the 100+ overs racked up by Anderson, bowling on demoralising, energy-sapping surfaces, have hardly yielded decisive results.

Of course, the benefit of hindsight after having seen the three dismal wickets rolled out by the hosts may well have given Cook and Flower reason enough to leave Anderson at home and such tough decisions have to be made prior to tours and not afterwards.

But as England supporters observe what looks like turning out to be a third successive dour draw in the series, the concerns become far more keenly focused on the fitness of a player that they can simply not do without.

England fixtures for the remainder of the year

England v New Zealand (two Tests) – starting May 16, May 24

England v New Zealand (three ODIs) – May 31, June 2, June 5

ICC Champions Trophy (in England) – June 6-23

England v New Zealand (two T20s) – June 25, June 27

England v Essex (four-day match) – starting June 30

England v Australia (five Tests) – starting July 10, July 18, August 1, August 9, August 21

England v Australia (two T20s) – August 29, August 31

Ireland v England (one ODI) – September 3

England v Australia (five ODIs) – September 6, September 8, September 11, September 14, September 16

Western Australia v England (three-day match) – starting October 31

Australia A v England (four-day match) – starting November 6

New South Wales v England (four-day match) – starting November 29

Australia v England (five Tests) – November 25, December 9, December 17, December 30, January 7

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