Anderson laments loss of Ashes fever
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James Anderson believes England will have to improve in all areas of their cricket if they are to overturn a 2-0 deficit in their seven-match ODI series against Australia, and give themselves a realistic chance of performing well in the ICC Champions Trophy that gets underway in South Africa at the end of the month.
Nevertheless, despite England's best intentions to move seamlessly into one-day mode, Anderson admitted that it had been tough for the team to maintain the same intensity that had carried them to Ashes glory at the end of last month, and reiterated the belief that a longer gap between the Test and ODI series would have been beneficial to all concerned - not least the fans who have turned up to the matches so far.
Lord's and The Oval were the scenes of England's two victories in the Ashes, but this week they were the scenes for a pair of dispiriting one-day performances, as England contrived to let slip two run-chases that they seemed to have under control at the half-way mark of their respective innings. And though he did not blame the fans for failing to get enthused by the below-par performances, Anderson felt that the lack of intensity could not help but rub both ways.
"We remembered the atmosphere we got all the way through the Oval Test match, and especially on that last day, and then we came into the one-dayer, and it was very, very quiet and a very different atmosphere," Anderson told Cricinfo's Switch Hit podcast. "And at Lord's as well, it was very different. It's strange when, from the dressing room, you can actually hear players shouting encouragement on the field, because obviously through the Ashes you couldn't hear that."
"It is difficult, but that's just the way the schedule is at the minute," he said. "Wherever we go in the world, each series is pretty much back-to-back and we don't get much rest in between. Ideally we'd have wanted a few more days after the Ashes to let things settle down and let people's bodies recover, but it just wasn't to be. It's just something we have to try and get used to."
England's cricketers made all the right noises in the immediate aftermath of the Ashes victory, even when faced with the unpalatable prospect of a trip to Belfast less than 24 hours after the scheduled finish to the Oval decider. But their on-field efforts have failed to live up to their stated intentions, and Anderson admitted there was no hiding from their shortcomings.
"It's been very disappointing to be honest," he said. "We came into this one-day series with quite high hopes. We were on a high after the Ashes and we had quite a fresh look to the team from a one-day point of view.
"We've got into some good positions in the games we've played, and given ourselves a chance to win by keeping Australia to some low totals. But we've not really hit our straps with the bat, and our top six will probably hold their hands up for that. They won't be best pleased with their performances so far, but it's something we'll look at for the next few games."
"I think we can improve in all areas," he said. "Certainly the batting, because the top six realise more than anyone that they need to get the bulk of the runs, and we can improve on our bowling as well. It's not been at its best, and though we've done reasonably well, we can still improve there. We've got to realise not only have we got a series to win here, we've also got the Champions Trophy just around the corner, so we've got to get some plans in place that work for us, and are going make us successful in that tournament."
On a personal level, Anderson did at least have a moment to cheer during the Lord's ODI, when he bowled Australia's top-scorer, Callum Ferguson, for 55 to claim his first international wicket since August 3. "Obviously you do realise when you're not taking wickets, and that was my first since the Edgbaston Test, which does seem quite strange. But people go through dry spells with the bat when they struggle for runs, and the last month has been like that for me with the ball.
In the past, Anderson might have allowed such a barren spell to unsettle him, but these days he believes he's a more rounded competitor, and more able to deal with the game's ups and downs. "I think now I've got a very clear gameplan," he said. "I'm very clear in what I'm trying to do, and although I've not taken a wicket for a month, I still think I've been bowling pretty well and asking questions of the batsmen. I'm not too bothered about it, and hopefully in the next few games I'll get back into the wickets."
Overall, Anderson admitted that he fell short of the standards he had set himself for the Ashes - he claimed vital first-innings wickets at Lord's, then picked up a five-for in a rain-affected draw at Edgbaston, but lost his incisiveness for the final two games at Headingley and The Oval. But arguably his most vital contribution came with the bat in the very first match at Cardiff, when he and Monty Panesar blocked out the final 69 of the match to secure a draw that had massive ramifications for the rest of the summer.
"I think at the time, and certainly the day after, we realised it could actually be a huge factor in the series," Anderson recalled. "Looking back now, it was a huge day for us as a team, not only did not lose the Test match, we actually took momentum into Lord's and managed to get the win there. And the way we played at Cardiff on that last day really helped. Me and Monty got a bit of praise for the way we batted those last 40 minutes, but I thought Paul Collingwood was fantastic on that last day."
Anderson's batting was notable for another reason throughout the summer - since his debut in 2003, he had gone 54 innings without ever recording a Test duck, until that notable run came to an end in the first innings at The Oval. Anderson, however, insisted the preservation of that record had not been a significant factor in the determination he has brought to his game in recent months.
"Not really, the only thing I knew about it was when people kept reminding me about it," he said. "I didn't really think about it when I was out in the middle, I was just thinking about watching the ball, and very basic stuff to take my thoughts away from that record. In a way I'm glad it's gone now, so that I won't keep getting reminded about it."
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Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo