The immortal Jimmy Anderson – an Ashes 2023 fantasy

Will Ford

The Ashes 2023 – Ian Smith on commentary: “And captain Burns [that’s right] turns to Jimmy Anderson – England need a breakthrough. Can England retain [yes, retain] The Ashes?…” 

Far-fetched? Maybe.

James Anderson will be 41 the next time The Ashes are contested on home soil. Old for your average fast bowler. The point is – in terms of both his skill and fitness levels, the Burnley Express isn’t average. His great pal Graeme Swann recently described him as having “the body of a 21-year-old” (which sounds creepier than maybe it was intended) adding that “there’s more meat on a dirty fork.” Plus the guy is a genius with ball in hand – “he could swing an orange” as Geoffrey Boycott once said.

Having ruled himself out of the tour of New Zealand – to give him time to properly recover from his ankle injury – he’s targeting a return for the South Africa series in December.

“The destination of the famous urn rests on this spell – Steve Smith knows it, Jimmy Anderson knows it and the crowd can feel it…”

There are many questioning his place in the side, which is utterly ludicrous. It’s amazing how quickly people can forget that Anderson is the best swing bowler in world cricket. If Anderson had been fit for The Ashes this summer, England would have won – it’s that simple.

People talk ‘cycles’ these days. “Maybe we should be selecting younger bowlers in this Ashes cycle.” “What’s the point of selecting Anderson in this cycle if he’s not going to be playing in The Ashes?”

Oh why don’t you f*** off.

Is he in England’s best team now? Yes he is. This idea of focusing purely on The Ashes is crap – particularly with the World Test Championship for us to pretend to care about until we actually do start caring about it – and who’s to say Anderson won’t be playing in four years time? As Mark Twain said: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Anderson doesn’t mind, he says he’s “as fit as he’s ever been” – so we shouldn’t either.

“Here he comes, new ball in hand, from his own end at his own ground. A little grey around the edges, but still fit as a fiddle…”

What about selecting the best team of cricketers for each individual Test match? That doesn’t mean always selecting Anderson – far from it. There’s no point taking him to the sub-continent for example. Horse for courses. Ed Smith and James Taylor should sit Anderson down and tell him he will be playing every home Test series and be included on other selected tours. He’ll hate it, as he’ll want to play every game – but it would the right call.

They should do similar for Stuart Broad. Another man who’s England obituary seems already to have been written despite arguably his best series ever this summer – as David Warner will attest to.

“He’s up to the wicket now, he bowls and… Smith’s nicked it has he?! There was a noise and they’ve all gone up!…”

The selectors can then try out the younger bowlers – future Anderson and Broad replacements – in those series in which the old fogies aren’t playing.

No-one wants to see Anderson running in from ten paces and bowling 70mph – Jimmy himself wouldn’t want to go out that way. But to deny ourselves our best bowler of all time because he’s missed one Ashes series through injury and because he’s a bit old makes no sense. It would do if his form had diminished in some way or even if the number of overs he bowls – when fit – had decreased. But as of yet, neither is true.

 Yes he’s walking [the most unbelievable part of this fantasy]! That’s his five-fer and that could be The Ashes. He’s had Smith’s number in this series and he’s got him again. What a man! Written off four years ago he’s proved them all wrong. James Anderson, you little ripper!”

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