James Anderson hopes the pain of England’s 4-0 defeat against Australia will spur him on to an Ashes swansong in 2019. Anderson will be 37 during the next Ashes series, and in all likelihood has played his last international cricket in this country. But he insisted that the hunger was still there to retain his place in the side and regain the Urn next year.
Certainly, if Anderson is beginning to feel his age, it has not been visible in his performances. Despite delivering 223.3 overs – the most he has ever delivered in a Test series – he was England’s leading wicket-taker by a distance, with 17 wickets at an average of 28. Not that it made the swill of defeat any harder to chug down.
“All the guys in the dressing room are hurting as much as I am,” Anderson said. “We all thought we could challenge Australia. It’s tough – we’ve known for a few weeks that they’re going to lift the Urn, but seeing them do it in person was tough to watch.
The Ashes Fifth Test in pictures
“I do think it’s been closer than 4-0. We have been on top in some games, if not all of them. We’ve just not capitalised on the key moments. Getting to 60 or 70 with the bat is not good enough. And with the ball, it’s all very bowling well for 15 or 20 overs. But 25-30 overs can be the key overs for a bowler, that’s when you’ve got to try to stay at your best. I don’t think we’ve done that.”
Attention now turns to the 2019 Ashes, where England will attempt to win for the fifth consecutive time on home soil. And Anderson said the prospect of avenging this defeat made him all the more determined to nurse his body through the next 18 months.
“That feeling should make you want to win the Ashes back in 2019, and I’m going to do everything I can to be available for that series,” Anderson said. “I don’t pick the team, I can’t say I’m definitely going to be there. But I’m still as hungry as ever, so I’m going to have a few weeks off, get my fitness back to 100 per cent, and then move on to the summer. I’ve never looked too far ahead, but I’d really like to be around in 2019.”
As for what happens in the interim, Anderson insisted that the sort of purgative change that followed England’s last Ashes defeat was not required here, and that the team was moving in the right direction. “I think we have improved over the last 18 months,” he said. “We’ve definitely made strides in the right direction.
“We’re hurting, and we know that we’ve got to improve in many areas. But it doesn’t feel like a series where there should be a big upheaval. We’ve actually played some good cricket. We’ve not been blown away in every game, and it doesn’t feel like a completely disastrous series.”
Australia captain and man of the series Steve Smith admitted that winning the Ashes in England – where Australia have not won since 2001 – was on his “bucket list”, and that his improving side would have every chance. “The more we play together, the more we’re going to get better as a group,” he said.
“A lot can change between now and then. England in 2019 is a long way away, but it is a real challenge for us. The ball can move around consistently at times. It’s about having a solid defence and a gameplan in English conditions. I don’t know who would be favourites.”