South Africa in England 2008 July 7, 2008

Anderson relishes competition

Cricinfo staff


James Anderson: 'We know he's there [Flintoff] but he's a completely different bowler to me so I'm just going to have to continue what I'm doing and if they pick him ahead of me then that's out of my hands' © Getty Images
 
Andrew Flintoff might be the one name whose return English cricket is desperate for, but his looming presence isn't wavering James Anderson's focus ahead of the first Test against South Africa.

Flintoff hasn't played for England since the Sydney Test in 2007, but has bowled himself into terrific form for Lancashire this summer after recovering from an ankle surgery in the winter. He was not picked for the first Test at Lord's, though few doubt the selectors will resist the urge to call him up at some point this summer. For Anderson, however, Flintoff's return is regarded "as an extra incentive".

"There's not just Fred [Flintoff] knocking on the door but there's also Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones now back bowling well and players like Sajid (Mahmood) and Liam Plunkett desperate to get back into the side," he said.

"You've got all these guys taking wickets regularly so you know you've got to keep doing the same if you're going to keep your place. It's not just Fred we're looking over our shoulders at, although he's obviously the biggest of the lot trying to get back. We know he's there but he's a completely different bowler to me so I'm just going to have to continue what I'm doing and if they pick him ahead of me then that's out of my hands."

Though the return of Flintoff is hotly anticipated, sneaking up on the inside is Jones. After moving from Glamorgan to Worcestershire in the winter, he has taken 26 wickets in five Championship games, nudging 90mph. He hasn't played since his key role in the 2005 Ashes and Anderson admitted that he and his colleagues have been keeping a keen eye on the performances of former England bowlers.

"When we're in the dressing room we all look at each other's counties to see how they're getting on so we all know who's doing well and what other people are doing," he said. "I've been in the same situation as them when I've gone back to Lancashire and I had to bowl well and take wickets consistently for my county to try and get myself back in the team. I've been in their position and I know how they're feeling and how frustrating it is when you can't get back into the team, but all of them who are trying to get back into the team are my mates, I've been on tours and played with them so I hope they do well - I just hope I do better than them to keep my place."

He added: "We were talking the other day about how the four pace bowlers from the 2005 Ashes are now all back bowling again, fit and taking wickets.

"From mine, Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom's points of view, we're hoping they don't get the chance to bowl again together for England - if we do keep them out of the team that obviously means we're doing well which has to be a good thing."

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