Bowling great Jimmy Anderson was Tuesday left out of the England team for the first Ashes Test as Pat Cummins warned his Australian side boasting some of “the all-time greats” would be tough to beat.
The home team head into the Ashes opener in Brisbane on Wednesday defending the hallowed urn and with their arch-rivals having a dismal record in Australia, losing nine of their last 10 Tests. The task for Joe Root’s side was made harder on the eve of the Ashes when veteran Anderson -- Test cricket's most prolific fast bowler with 632 wickets -- was not named in England’s 12-man match squad for the opening clash at the Gabba.
Anderson was not risked after reportedly suffering a minor calf problem, although England did not give any reason for his omission.
But wicketkeeper Jos Buttler told the BBC: “Jimmy’s not going to play but he is fit. It’s just precautionary.”
England are keen to manage the 39-year-old’s workload for what will be a gruelling five-match series, with the second Test starting in Adelaide in just nine days’ time. That will be a pink-ball, day-night match with conditions expected to be more helpful to Anderson’s swing bowling.
- Root targeted -
His absence leaves England to choose four bowlers from Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach to form the attack alongside returning all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has barely played since July.
England were already without injured pacemen Jofra Archer, who is recovering from an elbow injury, and Olly Stone who has undergone back surgery. A decision on whether to include spinner Leach or go for an all-seam attack will be made after a last look at the Gabba wicket before the toss on Wednesday morning.
Higher up the batting order, Haseeb Hameed won the race to open the innings with Rory Burns ahead of Zak Crawley, while Ollie Pope was preferred to Jonny Bairstow at number six.
“He’s obviously a great player and it’s a shame that he won’t be out there tomorrow, but it doesn't change what we are going to do,” said new Australian captain Cummins of Anderson.
Cummins, who took the reins when Tim Paine quit over a text-messaging scandal, nominated Root, the world’s number one Test batsman, as the key wicket for Australia.
“He’s going to be right up there as the biggest wicket, he’s had a really good last 12 months or so, but I wouldn't necessarily say he's going to make it or break it for them,” he said.