Anderson hails Stokes for instilling England spirit ‘I’ve never seen before’

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<span>Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Jimmy Anderson has now played Test cricket under eight England captains and six head coaches but says none compare with the current regime under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum by way of mentality.

After sitting out the third Test against New Zealand with a “puffy ankle”, Anderson is in contention to face India at Edgbaston on Friday for the completion of last summer’s Covid-affected series. Both sides are under new management and India sit 2-1 up, even if Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli’s successor as captain, is a doubt after testing positive for the virus last Sunday. Jasprit Bumrah could deputise.

The tourists meet an England team seemingly reborn under the leadership of Stokes and McCullum and fresh from chasing down targets of 277, 299 and 296 with minimal fuss for a 3-0 clean sweep over the Black Caps. Asked before training on Wednesday whether this new approach has felt unique in his 20-year career as an England Test cricketer, Anderson agreed.

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“It does feel that way,” replied the 39-year-old. “I have never been in a dressing room before when we have chased 300 on a pitch that is turning and everyone has been so calm, believing we were going to chase them down. That, after 20 years of playing international cricket, I had never seen before.

“You always get a few jittery people but one to 11 and the staff included were just calm and believed. That belief can go such a long way especially with the young players we have got. Trying to develop their confidence and experience, that will do wonders for them.”

As well as Anderson, England are set to have Ben Foakes available after he missed the last three days of the Headingley win first with a back issue, then a positive Covid diagnosis. The Surrey wicketkeeper trained on Wednesday and will likely come in for Sam Billings – his replacement with the gloves – provided he emerges from their final net session on Thursday unscathed.

The match itself – sold out for the first three days and starting at 10.30am each day at the request of the broadcasters – is slightly mind-bending, coming nine months after the original fifth Test at Old Trafford was postponed due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian camp and, some felt, its proximity to the delayed Indian Premier League.

Ben Foakes
Ben Foakes is set to return against India. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

As such, and with the visitors also short on preparation time after their tour match against Leicestershire descended into middle practice, no one quite knows how to pitch the match beyond the fulfilment of a contractual obligation and the England and Wales Cricket Board finally banking last year’s lost revenue.

Conditions differ this summer, too. The pitches have thus far been flatter and the Dukes ball is struggling to stay in shape, with 15 unscheduled changes coming during the New Zealand series. A ban on applying saliva to the ball under the ICC’s temporary Covid-19 regulations remains in place, something that could similarly be aiding England’s ability to go hard with the bat and score faster.

Asked how as a bowler he would respond to the new aggressive tactics, Anderson replied: “I think it’s horrible, I don’t want to think of someone coming at me like that. I thought New Zealand bowled really well , especially that spell when they got us 55 for six [at Headingley], it was one of the best opening spells I’ve seen for a long time.

Related: Brendon McCullum believes England revival has ‘sent a message’ to rivals

“But the confidence our batters have got at the moment, they’re fearless and we saw the way they all played. They just want to progress the game, I guess.”

Though slightly grumpy about the ongoing saliva ban, Anderson says he is smiling more than ever on the field and this in part down to Stokes. Despite 651 Test wickets to date, Anderson claims not to be as creative as his new captain when it comes to fields and tactics. He is also taken by Matt Potts after his 14 wickets in three Tests.

“[Potts] has all the attributes,” Anderson said. “And I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet because he can swing the ball both ways, too. We can’t shut him up. He is very confident. I have even seen him, not arguing with Stokesy, but pushing back saying ‘I don’t want him there’. He has a massive future.”

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