Rested Anderson returns to find squad short on gas

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The Independent Online

Jimmy Anderson has been to home and back. He left Australia amid scenes of unbridled joy to help look after his newly born daughter and has returned to a tour which is rapidly disintegrating.

When Anderson departed as a copper-bottomed Ashes hero, England had just won the series 3-1 with an unprecedented three innings victories. The side he has rejoined is 3-0 down in the one-day series and has lost four consecutive matches, including the second of the Twenty20 mini-series. Wheels of fortune have turned slower. To save the Commonwealth Bank Series from a premature denouement, the tourists must win the fourth match tomorrow.

"The travelling isn't ideal but it was great to get a rest and see the family," he said. "I do feel refreshed. Hopefully, I'll be available for Wednesday after practising the day before.

"I didn't sleep a great deal but I used the flights for that and, hopefully, I can get a couple of good nights' sleep before Wednesday. It was difficult, I won't lie. It's tough on my wife being at home on her own with the kids so it was nice I could get back home and help her out."

He wasn't saying it was great to be back, but nor was he carrying a feeding bottle either. After bowling 213.1 overs in the Ashes, Anderson needed a break whether in Lancashire or Timbuctoo.

The circus carries on and yesterday after two days in Sydney and three before that in, where was that place again, oh Melbourne, it hit Adelaide.

Toll has been taken on many bodies. Tim Bresnan has returned home with a torn calf muscle, which may yet preclude his involvement in the World Cup. Graeme Swann, already suffering from a swollen knee, has in addition suffered a back spasm and Kevin Pietersen's groin strain is not certain to have recovered by tomorrow.

England have not missed Anderson as much as they might have done. Neither he nor his usual one-day new ball partner, Stuart Broad, has played in any of the three losses but their replacements have performed admirably. The batsmen, however, have played in ill-advised fashion at best, hopelessly at worst.

Paul Collingwood, who played a two-ball innings of stunning ineptitude in the four-wicket defeat on Sunday, was seeking his redemption yesterday by embarking on a one-to-one net session with the England coach, Andy Flower. It has been a wretched trip for Collingwood but England desperately need him to rediscover his touch.

He will be required in the World Cup to bat, bowl and field and at least the latter two elements of his game seem to be in working order. He entered the attack on Sunday and immediately applied a tourniquet to Australia's innings, taking two wickets in a one-dayer for only the second time in 27 matches.

Anderson, who watched the weary defeat wearily, said: "Playing five Ashes Tests is tiring. I did feel very run down. And it must be difficult for the guys who have played every game. It's our job to play cricket and we knew before the tour it would be a long one.

"I wasn't expecting to go home for as long as I have, which was a bonus for me, but the guys who have been out here the whole time, it can be difficult for them, even though the families came out for a period which does help. I've experienced it before when you practise, play, travel, it can get a bit tiring."

It is not simply post-Ashes syndrome which has caused batsmen to take their eye off the ball, it is also because they have that eye on the World Cup. Whatever thrall this series holds, it cannot hold a candle to the idea of England winning the World Cup to go with their World Twenty20 championship and the Ashes. What a trio that would be.

"I'd be lying if I said we weren't gearing for the World Cup because it is very close," said Anderson. "But at the same time we don't want to lose this series so we're looking to Adelaide as a big game.

"Hopefully, it will recreate the situations we will face in the World Cup. If we get beat 7-0 it won't do our confidence any good. We're looking to turn things round. We've got four huge games that can start us off towards the World Cup." To which there are only 25 days to go. Everybody in the England camp has stopped counting.