James Anderson believes Chris Woakes is back to his absolute best after he produced a devastating spell of new-ball bowling to put England on the brink of victory in this day-night warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI at the Adelaide Oval.
However, England’s newly-appointed Test vice-captain admitted the team’s fragile batting is a worry ahead of the Ashes.
The tourists reduced their opponents to 25 for seven under the Adelaide floodlights on the third day of this match following Woakes’ four-wicket burst with the new pink ball.
England, who set the CA XI 268 win, will need three more tomorrow after being frustrated by a 45-run eighth-wicket stand that took the hosts to 70 for seven by a close of play that was extended by 30 minutes as Joe Root’s team went in search of a three-day win.
But the loss of seven wickets for 45 runs as England collapsed from 77 without loss to 207 all out earlier in the day did not bode well ahead of the start of the series against Australia in Brisbane on November 23.
“It’s not ideal, is it?” admitted Anderson. “Hopefully we’re getting it out of the way before the Test series starts but that’s something we’ve got to look at and probably have a chat about after the game. “Why it happened and what we could have done differently to stop it happening. And stop it happening again. Yeah, it’s not ideal.
“Some batsmen have got some really good time out in the middle; there are some guys who haven’t. The batsmen’s form isn’t too much of an issue now, as long as they are scoring runs in that first Test at the Gabba.”
At least opener Mark Stoneman, who hit his third half-century in as many innings on tour, and Jonny Bairstow were in form as they both passed fifty.
The day, though, belonged to bowlers, especially England’s, who were a man down following the ankle injury sustained by Jake Ball on the second day of this match.
Anderson, who also took a wicket in the final session, said: “It was outstanding, I thought. The three seamers bowled really well. We knew we had an important job to do, especially with Jake Ball injured. Having seen the movement the Australians got earlier in the day, we were encouraged by that. We knew we could challenge them, and that’s what we did.
“It’s a first-class game, so we want to win it – you create a winning environment, and that’s important going into a huge series like the Ashes.”
There was also special praise for Woakes, Anderson saying: “He’s got better and better every spell he’s bowled. I thought today he was brilliant. He deserved his four wickets and could have had more. He was back to his absolute best.”
With Test vice-captain Ben Stokes still unavailable for this tour as he awaits the outcome of the police investigation into his late-night altercation in Bristol in September, Anderson has beaten off competition from Stuart Broad and Alastair Cook to be named Root’s deputy in Australia.
“It’s a really nice thing that Joe has asked me to do,” he said. “I don’t think it changes my role in the team. As a senior player, I’ve always felt that I’ve a responsibility to help out other guys. Myself, Stuart and Alastair who have been here before – and had success here before – have an important role on this trip. So I don’t see that role changing my role much.”