The decision to leave James Anderson out of the England XI for the first Ashes Test at the Gabba has caused shock and debate, but not everyone thinks it’s a blunder.
Anderson has played 16 consecutive Ashes Test down under, a run stretching back to the Boxing Day Test in the 2006/07 series. However, with the fast bowler nearing 40 and needing to manage his fitness, the decision has been made to rest him from the opener. Anderson himself, writing on Instagram, said that he was “gutted” to be missing out.
“Gutted to be missing the first Test but it’s a long series with a lot of cricket to be played,” he said. “I’ll be doing all I can to help from the sidelines this week.”
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While rumours swirled that Anderson had an injury, clips of him bowling at full speed in the nets soon surfaced.
After an aborted attempt at trying his hand at left-arm spin, James Anderson is back bowling at full tilt to Jos Buttler at the Gabba nets. The decision to not play him in the first #Ashes Test must be a precautionary pic.twitter.com/wvUmbwEOW3
— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) December 7, 2021
Former Australia batter Damien Martyn described the decision on Twitter as a “crazy nonsense”.
This is crazy nonsense and hard to believe. Maybe it changes. As it’s raining now and will be overcast. Australia would be very happy he is not playing. #mindboggles
— Damien Martyn🏏 (@damienmartyn) December 7, 2021
“This is crazy nonsense and hard to believe,” he said. “Maybe it changes. As it’s raining now and will be overcast. Australia would be very happy he is not playing.”
Others pointed to the conditions as reason to find Anderson’s exclusion puzzling, with the Gabba surface looking unusually green two days out from the game starting.
Honestly pretty glad Jimmy Anderson's out for the Gabba . . . https://t.co/rINcgv0XEb
— Kishor (@kishor_nr) December 6, 2021
However, others suggested that Anderson’s poor record at Australia’s fortress was a good reason to leave him on the sidelines.
James Anderson at the Gabba:
7 wickets in four Tests at 75.14
Strike rate of 140.7, best bowling of 2/50#Ashes
— Nic Savage (@nic_savage1) December 6, 2021
Writing in the i, Chris Stocks suggested that it wasn’t the conditions for the first Test, but those for the second that played the biggest part in the decision.
“At 39, Anderson needs to be treated with caution and missing Brisbane, a venue where he averages 75 with the ball, was probably the smart move,” he wrote. “England have often been disingenuous when playing down injuries in the past, yet Anderson’s sharpness in training in the two days leading into the series suggests that holding back the world’s best swing bowler for next week’s day-night Test in Adelaide was the plan all along.”
The day/night Test in the 2017/18 Ashes witnessed Anderson’s first five-for in Australia, with the pink ball said to swing more than its red counterpart, especially under lights.
Perhaps, as with many decisions, the only time to evaluate it will be later on, and not just after the first Test, but at the end of the series.