England bowling talents keeping Anderson on his toes ahead of New Zealand opener

By Sports Desk February 13, 2023

James Anderson hailed the depth of bowling talent available to England ahead of the first Test in New Zealand, saying the presence of Matthew Potts and Olly Stone is keeping him on his toes.

England will attempt to continue their outstanding form under head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes across a two-match series in New Zealand this month, having won nine of their last 10 Tests.

England bolstered their seam attack by recalling Potts, Stone and Stuart Broad for the trip to McCullum's homeland, with Mark Wood and Rehan Ahmed rested after starring in last year's 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan.

With Jofra Archer also impressing on his long-awaited ODI return after an injury-ravaged few years, Anderson is in awe at the options available to England.

"To be able to bring these guys [Potts and Stone] back into the squad after having Mark Wood in Pakistan, and with Jofra getting back fit, it feels like we're building up a real good bank of fast bowlers that will be able to win games in any conditions anywhere in the world," Anderson told The Guardian.

"I think whether they're young or old, guys always keep you on your toes. Broady's keeping me on my toes, we're pushing each other in the nets all the time.

"At the minute, Ollie Robinson is probably one of the best bowlers in the world, for me. 

"He just doesn't miss, can swing it both ways, nips it, gets bounce – he's comfortably the one bowler that the guys don't want to face in the nets here. Everyone keeps you on your toes and it keeps those standards really high."

England have not won a Test series in New Zealand since 2007-08, when a 26-year-old Anderson tore through the hosts' top five in Wellington to kick-start their comeback in a 2-1 triumph.

Anderson was invited to play for Auckland against Wellington in the State Championship ahead of that impressive outing in the second Test, a decision criticised by several members of the New Zealand team – including McCullum – for enabling the England man to find form. 

"It was amazing for me. It turned out to be a very good decision. I bowled a lot of overs. I didn't set the world alight but it got me into a good rhythm to play the next Test," Anderson recalled.

"Baz brought that up the other day. He was fuming at the time! Apparently the whole New Zealand team were fuming with Auckland. It was huge for both of us.

"And not just the way we played, but with [Matthew] Hoggard and [Steve] Harmison having been such a massive part of England's success – the 2005 Ashes and Harmy being number one in the world at one point. 

"Them being the senior bowlers and us taking their places gave us so much confidence to go on and try and emulate them. We never looked back."

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    Moeen, 35, has not played red-ball cricket since September 2021 but has found his name thrust back into the conversation after Leach was ruled out for the summer by a stress fracture in his lower back.

    The PA news agency understands Moeen is weighing up whether or not to make a dramatic return over the next couple of days.

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    Head coach Brendon McCullum previously tried to tempt the all-rounder back into the fray for the historic tour of Pakistan but, after initially declaring himself open to the idea, Moeen ultimately decided to stick to limited-overs cricket.

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    Announcing his decision not to take up McCullum’s offer of taking part in the Pakistan trip, Moeen said last year: “I want to enjoy my cricket and it wouldn’t be fair to reverse my decision and then struggle to give it my all. It’s time to close the door on that side of my career. To play 64 tests for England has been a privilege and a dream fulfilled.”

    He had earlier taken a different tone, hinting that he could be persuaded to re-enter the fray, telling PA and the Guardian last June: “Baz messaged me asking if I was in. Maybe in the future, potential tours or whatever, who knows? I said ‘Call me at the time’. If and when he calls me, we’ll chat.”

    If he did throw himself into the maelstrom of an Ashes summer, Moeen would need to be certain he had the necessary mental and physical energy to take on a side against whom he has some difficult experiences but, perhaps, unfinished business.

    The leadership style of McCullum and captain Ben Stokes may prove a real draw in his deliberations. Moeen’s naturally aggressive style, with both ball and bat, chimes perfectly with the current environment and the chance to make his own mark on the ‘Bazball’ era could be persuasive.

    Stuart Broad, a contemporary of Moeen’s who has been revitalised by the set-up over the last year, can already see a neat fit.

    He told Sky Sports: “We know Mo is a phenomenal cricketer and someone who would fit into Stokes and Baz’s philosophy beautifully.

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    England have held off naming an addition to the squad, having originally expected to make an early call, leaving the ball in Moeen’s court.

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    Pope’s promotion to number three last summer is one of many bold decisions made by Stokes and McCullum which have been handsomely vindicated over the past 12 months.

    While he is determined to deliver with the bat over the next two months, there is a scenario which would see him captain the side during the Ashes.

    Concerns remain over the fitness of Stokes, who has struggled with his left knee since the New Zealand series in February and, despite repeatedly allaying fears, the all-rounder has batted just twice and bowled only six competitive balls in the months building up to the Ashes.

    “It’s a big honour firstly to be vice-captain of your country, especially in Test cricket,” Pope said.

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    “Nothing’s really changed. He’s got a pretty clear vision and he’s got 15 guys in that changing room who know our roles now, so that’s helpful for everybody.

    “Fingers crossed Stokesy’s body’s all good. It’s going to take a hell of a lot for him not to be on the pitch even for a day’s play, knowing what he’s like, but if it did happen, I feel confident.

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    “So, I’ve got a pretty good understanding of how he runs things now and if needs be can implement the same ideas.”

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    A host of potential investors have been linked with the White Rose, including former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, the group behind Indian Premier League franchise Delhi Capitals and the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.

    In April, Yorkshire appointed Grant Thornton in the United Arab Emirates to explore investment options in the Middle East and North Africa.

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