Injury and illness have continued to plague England in lead up to the third Test. In the fast bowling department, James Anderson has flown back home and Jofra Archer has failed to fully recover. The key question now is whether Sam Curran can share the new ball with Stuart Broad in Port Elizabeth?
On the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker, WCM magazine editor Jo Harman and host Ben Gardner discussed the subject and pondered over James Anderson’s future. Here are the excerpts.
BG: Are we comfortable with the idea of Sam Curran – England new-ball bowler?
JH: I am. I think he’s bowled really well on this tour. In theory, he should be most effective when the ball is at its newest and going to swing. I’d go with Broad and Curran with Wood as first change, I think.
PW: I’m comfortable with that too. I think Jo’s rationale as ever is bang on. He’s a conventional swing bowler. I think PE, historically, has shown that the ball does a bit. The muggy conditions will certainly help his style. And it’s good to see with Curran that there’s no real debate around his credentials. He’s not damned with faint praise anymore. There’s no more backhanded compliments with Sam Curran. He’s just a class cricketer. He does it time after time and he’s now become a mainstay of this bowling attack and all the more so with Anderson going home.
The question with Jimmy… he’s what 57 and a half now… how many more times can he, to coin a Alastair Cook-ism, ‘go to the well’?
JH: There’s a similarity here with Steyn who for a long time went almost completely injury free. Anderson had his early career injuries, but for a long time he was almost injury free. Same with Steyn, when he had his first quite serious injury, whenever he came back, there was always something else he picked up. And I’ve heard Anderson speak about this in the past that it’s when you’re not bowling that you’re most likely to pick up injuries when you come back and that seems to be the case with Anderson; every time he comes back, something else comes along. There’s another different niggle.
PW: I like the way that he’s positioning himself and his particular story. He is saying ‘I want to redefine what a fast bowler in Test cricket is capable of doing physically’ and he’s making lon-term goals as realistic as possible and bringing them into the conversation. He wants to be bowling in the Ashes in two years’ time. So it’s not ‘I just want to get through to next Thursday and play another Test or get through that series. I want to play in two years’ time.’ It’s laudable, it’s admirable, it’s also mildly terrifying for mortals to be observing all of this.
Listen to the full debate below. Also available on Spotify and the Podcast app.