NEWS

James Anderson lines up England Test return

November 16, 2016

James Anderson could return to the England side for the second Test against India in Visakhapatnam, which starts tomorrow (November 17th).

The swing bowler, England's leading Test wicket taker with 463 victims, has recovered from the shoulder trouble that caused him to miss the Bangladesh series and the first Test in Rajkot, and his ability to reverse swing the ball in subcontinental conditions could be invaluable.

However, he may have to wait to make his return, with the pitch expected to be very spin friendly. Last month, New Zealand were bowled out for 80 in a one-day international and observers have said the Test strip looks likely to crumble at an early stage.

This would make it more of a priority to keep three spinners and potentially leave out Chris Woakes in favour of another batsman, in order to garner as many runs as possible in what is likely to be a low-scoring game.

Speaking to BBC Test Match Special, captain Alastair Cook said the Anderson situation poses a dilemma, admitting: "It's a decision that will give me a few more grey hairs."

"He is as fit on the medical side as he has been for a while and he's better than he was in the summer.

"One thing you can't replicate without any match practice, which we haven't found him, is that match fitness."

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the day-night Test match at Edgbaston next summer, when West Indies are the visitors, can be sure that Anderson's swing bowling with the pink ball will be in high demand on that occasion.

For now, however, a genuine selection poser exists, not least because England's spinners unexpectedly outbowled India's in the drawn first Test at Rajkot, following criticism of their performances in Bangladesh.

Moeen Ali was man-of-the match for his all-round performance, which included a first innings score of 117, while Adil Rashid returned match figures of 7-178, better than anything the greatest legspinner of all, Shane Warne, ever recorded against India. Zafar Ansari, the third member of England's slow bowling unit, praised the influence of former Pakistani bowler Saqlain Mushtaq in helping the spinners. Saqlain will stay with the team as a consultant until after the third Test.

While all eyes will be on the spinners on both sides, England will certainly be feeling positive, having come close to winning on a flat pitch in Rajkot. Centuries by Cook, Moeen, Joe Root and Ben Stokes all suggested the batting is in good shape, while debutant Haseeb Hameed's second innings 82 has convinced many observers that the prodigious 19-year-old is indeed the long-awaited answer to England's search for an opening partner for Cook.

India, by contrast, have question marks at the top of the order and have dropped Gautham Gambhir, with KL Rahul, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, taking his place.

With India unbeaten in their last 15 Tests, it will still be hard for England. But if they can make the most of a result pitch in Visakhapatnam's first ever Test match, they could take a huge stride towards a second successive series win in India.

By Keith Prowse

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