RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) — The lone survivor of England's last test tour of Pakistan 17 years ago is feeling blessed to be back.
James Anderson has worked hard on his fitness for the last five-six years to still be spearheading England's bowling attack at the age of 40, and prolong a test career that started in 2003 against Zimbabwe at Lord’s.
“I’m very fortunate that I’m naturally quite fit,” he said on Tuesday. “I feel very fortunate that I’m still here, very fortunate to be able to be back in Pakistan after so long.”
The fast bowler didn’t play in any of the three tests on that 2005 tour that Pakistan won 2-0, but he'll be front and center in the attack without long-time partner Stuart Broad when the latest three-match series starts on Thursday.
“We’ve had an amazing welcome,” Anderson said. “All the guys are really excited to be back here, even the guys that weren’t here 17 years ago understand how big a tour this is in terms of world cricket, not just the two teams that are here.”
Foreign teams avoided touring Pakistan after the 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus and Pakistan hosted England in test series twice in the United Arab Emirates. England is now trying to figure out how the pitch will behave.
Anderson admits he has little idea after two practice sessions at Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi, venue for the first test.
In Rawalpindi over the last three years, Pakistan has beaten Bangladesh and South Africa while drawing tests against Sri Lanka and most recently Australia.
“I’m not a great pitch reader,” Anderson said. “One thing we have noticed is that there’s been a bit of dew around in the morning when we got here for practice . . . might be a little bit of moisture in the wicket early on. Well, I’ll be hoping for that as well.”
Anderson has 667 wickets from a staggering 175 test matches, but if subcontinent pitches play to stereotype then they will challenge the aggressive plans of England captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
“The challenge is trying to find something in unresponsive pitches,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to try and find ways of taking wickets and the introduction of Ben as captain and Brendon as coach has also helped in terms of thinking outside the box . . . we’ve got to take 20 wickets and so I’ll focus on that for the next few weeks.”
Anderson regarded Pakistan as tough opposition in its own backyard, featuring captain Babar Azam and Azhar Ali in the top order, and the pace of Naseem Shah and uncapped Haris Rauf to challenge the fast-scoring England batters.
“They’ve got all areas covered with pace, and their batting I think is really strong,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to be on top of our game to get anything out of the series. We’ve come here to win . . . we want to make sure we’ve got plans for all of them. We’ve just got to make sure we adapt to the conditions.”
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