The England captain Alastair Cook has revealed on the eve of the first Test against Bangladesh that pace spearhead James Anderson's injury woes will continue into the India series next month.
Anderson had already been ruled out of the two Tests against the Tigers due to a recurrence of a right shoulder injury and his ongoing rehabilitation from the issue will preclude the 34-year-old from playing in next month's opener against India in Rajkot.
The problem first flared up over the summer, when he sustained a stress fracture to the area, which controversially forced him to sit out the first Test against Pakistan, despite Anderson declaring himself fit. While the seamer recovered sufficiently to play for the remainder of the series, he has not taken to the field since and Cook's announcement means he will at least miss the first three of England's seven Tests on the subcontinent this winter.
Cook said: “I don't think he'll be there for the start. He might be ready to do some training, but he won't be ready for the first Test match.”
While Cook is hopeful his good friend will play some part in the remaining four Tests against India, his comments of Anderson's struggles when he bowls is troubling. He added: “I think so. You should probably speak to the medical team and Jimmy on that. He hasn't yet bowled since, and that has been the problem in the past. However physically well he's been in the rest of his body, it's when he starts bowling. He's making some really good strides and we'll know more later on.”
Cook, who became a father for a second time over the weekend, cannot afford to dwell too much on the absentees as he prepares to become England's most capped Test player at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong on Thursday. The left-handed opener's 134th Test appearance will move him clear of Alec Stewart, with whom he currently shares the record. Cook said: “It's going to be a very special day on a personal note.”
The identity of his ninth opening partner following the retirement of Andrew Strauss four years ago has been a hot topic, but Cook refused to divulge whether it will be Haseeb Hameed or Ben Duckett. Both young batsmen have presented compelling cases, having both shone on the domestic circuit this year, while Duckett has registered four fifties in his last five innings and Hameed looked impressive in going past a half-century in England's final practice match.
But Cook was keeping his cards close to his chest, as he said: “We've had some thoughts, but unfortunately I can't name the team. It's another opportunity for someone to grab the spot with both hands. The guys that have come in have done OK, they haven't embarrassed themselves at all, but they couldn't make that contribution a bit bigger.”
However, the England captain did admit they will likely choose three seamers and as many spinners on what is likely to be a slow and low pitch, with all-rounders Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali potentially batting higher up the order to accommodate more bowlers. He added: “With the all-rounders we've got in our side, I think you'd be right to assume so on these wickets. We seem to get most options with that one.”
Cook believes England may be slight favourites to win in Chittagong and in Dhaka next week - even on unfamiliar tracks and in baking heat - as Bangladesh's last Test was more than 15 months ago. However, he pointed out that most observers predicted Australia to retain the Ashes last year before Cook's men claimed a narrow triumph. He said: “I think due to Bangladesh not playing much cricket over the last year or so, you outweigh that [with the fact] we are playing in not alien conditions, but conditions that are not natural to us.
“We won an Ashes series when no one gave us a chance, so it's irrelevant to how we play.”
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