Durban: James Anderson may have lost his fight to be fit for the Boxing Day Test against South Africa, but Stuart Broad insists the absence of his new ball partner is 'not a hammer blow' to England’s chances.
James Anderson. Pic/Getty Images
Anderson, 33, has been ruled out of the series opener in Durban with a right calf strain that has lingered since the start of the trip, though England remain hopeful that he could yet feature in the second Test in Cape Town.
Broad will shoulder a greater share of the burden as a result, with Chris Woakes the heavy favourite to be recalled for the first time since August 2014. Woakes, who has played four Tests, joined Broad and Steven Finn for a full bowling session in the nets on Christmas Eve, while fellow seamers Chris Jordan and Mark Footitt worked on their outfielding in a separate group.
With 110 caps worth of experience and a national record of 426 wickets Anderson’s unavailability is a considerable setback for England, particularly on a surface where early breakthroughs will be essential.
But Broad, who took career-best figures of eight for 15 in an unforgettable Ashes morning at Trent Bridge last time Anderson failed a fitness test, believes the tourists can cope. "Jimmy’s disappointed but with the strength in depth we’ve got in this group it’s not a hammer blow to us," said Broad, who showed off his festive side by wearing a Santa hat in his pre-match conference.
"With Steven Finn coming back and bowling nicely we’ve got good depth to cover his niggle. Of course, it’s disappointing when you lose the spearhead of your attack but I think it’s just a real slight niggle and the management decided it really wasn’t worth the risk in the first Test."
Broad suggested Anderson 'could have played' if necessary, but with just five overs under his belt on tour and no bowling at all for the past three days that seems an optimistic interpretation.
Anderson may not be able to affect the game from the middle but his depth of knowledge and bowling brain can still be of use to England at Kingsmead.
"He's already announced himself as assistant bowling coach to Ottis Gibson," said a smiling Broad.
"He's very keen to share his wealth of experience. We haven’t toured here for six years — a long gap — and I don’t know how good his memory is but he will be able to help whoever takes the new ball," said Broad.