Head coach Chris Silverwood is crossing his fingers that James Anderson can end England’s Test summer on a high by claiming a historic 600th wicket and leading the team to victory over Pakistan.
Anderson ended day four of the third Test stranded on 599 after taking the wicket of Abid Ali late on – a breakthrough that might have been a milestone had Jos Buttler have held on to a regulation edge from Shan Masood in the morning session.
A combination of bad light and heavy rain restricted Anderson to 12 overs on Monday and, with a poor forecast for day five, there is a chance he could have to wait even longer to becoming the first paceman in a distinguished club that currently has just three members – Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble.
England are also chasing a wider prize – with eight more wickets needed to seal a 2-0 series victory after Pakistan closed 210 runs behind on 100 for two.
Silverwood remains hopeful of a perfect conclusion to two-and-a-half months of training, living and playing in a strictly controlled bubble, with his 38-year-old seamer to the fore.
“It would be fantastic if we could do it. I want to win the game first and foremost but to finish strongly and see Jimmy get his 600th would be fantastic,” he said.
“We’re all aware of the milestone Jimmy is looking at but he’ll get there. Hopefully we’ll see it tomorrow.
“It would be brilliant to see Jimmy get over the line. We’ll wake up in the morning, have a look out the curtains to see what’s out there and, if we get an opportunity, we’ll go for it.
“For the guys to come out and put their best foot forward and finish in the same way we’ve played the last two series would be nice. I’m very proud of how they’ve handled themselves, being locked up for the bets part of 10 weeks in the bubble – their attitude and effort during that time has been fantastic.”
There is little that has not already been said it tribute to Anderson, who has built a 17-year body of work that may never be matched, but as a player who laboured hard for the 11 Test wickets he achieved Silverwood’s appreciation runs deep.
“He’s an inspiration, isn’t he? 600 Test wickets…Wow,” he said.
Anderson leading England out.
Remember, he’s only one wicket away from 599 Test scalps pic.twitter.com/QtWP3sWQGb
— Rory Dollard (@thervd) August 24, 2020
“He’s worked so hard to do it and he’s brilliant around the place. He’s constantly helping the other bowlers. It’s just superb to have one of the best in the world sat in your dressing room and playing for your country.”
One England player has already taken the field for the final time, with Surrey batsman Ollie Pope landing badly on his left shoulder in the morning session and causing concerns that he has aggravated an old injury that kept him out of the game for several months.
He will leave the bubble for a medical assessment on Tuesday, with Silverwood adding: “Ollie’s banged his shoulder again so he’ll go for a scan on that. We’ll assess from there.”