James Anderson is looking forward to the summer with optimism after coming through Lancashire’s opening County Championship match of the season without any pain from the shoulder injury that curtailed his winter for England.
Anderson, 35 in July, was unable to help his county to victory after Essex, inspired by a defiant unbeaten century from teenager Dan Lawrence, saw out the final day at Chelmsford to secure a fighting draw.
The hosts resumed on 89 for two and lost just four more wickets during 96 overs on a final day that saw Lawrence, 19, bat throughout as he finished unbeaten on 141.
However, the bigger picture is positive for Anderson given the leader of England’s attack came through 42 overs without any adverse reaction to the problem in his right shoulder that saw him miss three of his country’s seven Tests in Bangladesh and India late last year.
That is good news given there are another seven Tests to come this summer against South Africa and West Indies and then an Ashes tour of Australia next winter.
Anderson, who failed to add to his three wickets earlier in the match as he returned nought for 55 from the 24 overs he bowled during Essex’s second innings, said: “I felt really good actually, I got some good overs in.
"The shoulder is all good. I’m happy the amount I’ve bowled – I’ve got through a lot of overs and the ball came out nicely. I was a bit rusty in parts but the speed felt good so I’m happy.”
Anderson will be rested for Lancashire next Championship game against Surrey at The Oval starting on Friday but returns for their third at home to Somerset at Old Trafford later in the month.
He will then play two Royal London One-Day Cup matches before some more Championship matches ahead of England’s first Test against South Africa at Lord’s in early July.
“I’ll be back for that Somerset game and then I think there’s three or four more Championship games before that first Test and hopefully I’ll play a few of them,” said Anderson.
“It’s not just down to me. The England medical team put their recommendations forward – that’s why I’m playing two out of the first three [Championship matches]. I’ve got a schedule up until about May 10 so then I’m sure it’ll be looked at again and I’ll be told what I can do after that.”
This match was meant to see Anderson, his country’s leading wicket-taker, come up against Alastair Cook, England’s most prolific Test runscorer of all-time who was ruled out of this match with a hip injury.
Cook, who stood down from the Test captaincy in February, is expected to net at Chelmsford on Tuesday and should, all being well, make his first Championship appearance of the season against Somerset at Taunton starting on Friday.
Anderson, though, spent time with Cook during this match and revealed both are excited about what is to come for England this summer.
“I caught up with him – he seems on good form,” said Anderson. “I think both of us have enjoyed being around our counties for a decent amount of time and having three months here to play and help our teams to victories.
“Then we’ve got a huge, huge second half of the international summer. We’re looking forward to it, starting against South Africa which is going to be a really tough series and should actually be really exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Anderson recently admitted he would have seriously thought about taking over the Test captaincy if he had been considered as Cook’s replacement by England, who opted for Joe Root.
But Anderson was less keen on captaincy after leading Lancashire for the entirety of the final day in Chelmsford after a thumb injury kept regular skipper Steven Croft off the field.
“Of course, I love doing it but it’s difficult when you’re trying to bowl a side out on a flat wicket,” he said.
“You’re always thinking if you can do something different. So I was asking for advice all the time from the senior players in our team. But I’m not sure I’m cut out for it because I feel knackered now bowling and trying to captain as well – it’s pretty tough.”
For Essex, this draw was a good result in their first match back in Division One for seven years.
They owed much to Lawrence, who saw off Anderson and everything else Lancashire threw at him as he shared century stands first with Tom Westley and then captain Ryan Ten Doeschate.
Lawrence, who like Cook is another product of Essex’s academy, was the third-youngest batsman to score a Championship century when he made 161 against Surrey at The Oval at the age of 17 and 290 days back in 2015.
Facing Anderson, though, made this innings – which lasted 333 balls and spanned seven hours and seven minutes - the most satisfying of his fledgling career.
“It was a tough challenge,” he said. “It was a lovely wicket to bat on which made it a tiny bit easier. But he is an unbelievable bowler as are all their bowlers. It was nice to get over the line.”