James Anderson is eager to resume his record-breaking Test career after sitting out the last two matches of England’s 2015 Ashes series victory.
A side strain kept the 33-year-old off the pitch as England regained the urn in Nottingham, and also for the final Test at The Oval. But Anderson, who returned for Lancashire at the end of the summer, is “itching” to be involved again when Alastair Cook’s team begin their three-Test series against Pakistan tomorrow.
England’s all-time leading wicket-taker will not have to worry about prising out Azhar Ali in Abu Dhabi either because the Pakistan No 3 has been ruled out of the opening match with a foot infection.
Azhar made more than 250 runs, at above 50 an innings, when England were beaten 3-0 by Pakistan on their last trip here. On hearing of his initial absence in this return series, Anderson said: “He obviously played very well last time.
“In that number three spot, he was the guy to get out for them, even with the experienced players who came in after him.”
Azhar’s misfortune appears to fall into the category of curious sporting injuries. He reportedly first hurt his foot during the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken at least once by all adult Muslim men. An infection set in and forced the one-day international captain out of last week’s decider as Pakistan beat Zimbabwe 2-1 in Harare.
Before yesterday’s confirmation that he will also miss the first Test against England, team manager Intikhab Alam said: “Azhar has not been able to train because he can’t wear a shoe on his left foot.”
But Anderson cautioned: “They’ve got other quality players who’ve got plenty of runs out here. So there’s plenty of other players we’ve got to watch.”
Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma and AB de Villiers exchanged centuries as South Africa beat India by five runs in the first one-day international against India in Kanpur yesterday.
The 28-year-old Rohit made 150 – India’s second-highest individual score in ODIs against South Africa – but the hosts were unable to avenge their 2-0 T20 series defeat after a late collapse.
Four wickets fell for 28 runs in the last four overs as India finished on 298 for seven chasing 304.
De Villiers had smashed 104 from just 73 balls as South Africa made 303 for five but Rohit looked to have the chase under control as he thrashed 150 from 133 deliveries only to fall at the crucial moment.
Having reached 150, Rohit was visibly furious with himself as he tamely chipped the first ball of Imran Tahir’s 47th over back to the bowler.
Four balls later Suresh Raina lofted the leg-spinner to mid-on, and with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Stuart Binny struggling to find boundaries, 11 runs were required from Kagiso Rabada’s last set of six.
Dhoni was caught and bowled with three balls remaining, Binny hoisted the next delivery to square-leg and, with six needed from the final ball to force a tie, Bhuvneshwar Kumar could only manage a single.