James Anderson has urged the England team to “block out the noise” from their critics as they prepare for a crucial second Test against Pakistan.
Anderson is one of several members of the squad – and their support staff – to come in for criticism after a dismal performance at Lord’s saw England go one-down in the two-match series. It was their sixth loss in eight Tests and their 16th loss in their last 30. And, despite 68 wickets in his last 15 Tests at an average of 19.36, it left former England captain Michael Vaughan suggesting that it might prove beneficial to drop Anderson or Stuart Broad in order to “ruffle some feathers” within the squad.
But while Anderson, the team’s vice-captain, accepted England “didn’t play very well” and that he personally “didn’t have my best game,” he insisted the squad selected was “the best 12 players in the country” and simply suffering from a dip in confidence.
And he reacted to criticism of his own bowling – specifically the suggestion that he bowled too short on a Lord’s pitch which appeared to aid seam bowling – by reminding Vaughan and co. of his outstanding Test cricket.
“Stuart and I have 950 Test wickets between us,” Anderson said. “We’re doing the best we can for this team.
“I didn’t have my best game, I know that. But I’m aware of what lengths that need to be bowled on certain pitches. So it’s just something I’ll try and block out. Some people think they might know better than me but I’d like to think that, after 15 years of playing Test cricket, I know which lengths to bowl on certain pitches.
“It wasn’t our best performance last week and when that happens – when you suffer a heavy defeat – there’s always a lot of noise around that. Lots more opinions come out. This has to be done; that has to be done.
“There’s not a lot as players we can do about that. If the management or players think that feathers need to be ruffled, then as players all we can do is concentrate on our job.
“The outside noise is always there and it’s a bit louder when you perform badly. That’s something you’ve just got to deal with as a sportsman and block out as best you can.”
England will drop to seventh in the ICC’s Test rankings if they lose at Headingely – a scenario which might well lead to the sacking of Trevor Bayliss as Test coach – but Anderson denied there is a fundamental problem with the side.
“I don’t think there is a problem,” he said. “I just think we’re potentially low on confidence when we go out in the middle. You suffer a few defeats and you need something special to turn it around. A bit of luck or something. I’m convinced this 12 we have here is the best 12 we have in this country at the moment for Test cricket and it’s going to take something from a few players to turn this around this week.
“Whether it is one of Broady’s spells, a double hundred from Alastair Cook or Joe Root, just to spark things off. That will get us going. We are very close, but just not quite firing on the field when the pressure is on
“We have a really good dressing-room. We had a really good build-up to the last game, we just didn’t perform on the field. The team feels like a good one, it feels like a talented one. There’s real quality in there.”
Anderson did admit to frustration at England’s form, however, and urged his team-mates to show their “skill heart and fight” to inspire a resurgence.
“It’s really frustrating for us,” he said. “International cricket is about delivering your skill under pressure and we just didn’t do that often enough. There were glimpses from various players but we didn’t deliver when the pressure was on, so that’s something we’re going to have look at.
“It’s definitely an individual thing. It’s taking responsibility for yourself and your own performance. Being honest with yourself.
“I think it’s quite easy for the confidence of the team to take a hit when you have a defeat like that. So it’s going to take some special individual performances this week.
“So we’ll try. We’ll use our skill, use our heart, use the fight we have in the dressing room to show people what we can do.”