Anderson says England ambitious for 5-0 revenge
It has come to something when an England player is asked if he feels sympathy for an Australian opponent. But so relentless are the misfortunes afflicting the Australian team that one of the architects of their downfall, James Anderson, was asked just that.
On one hand it is understandable. Not only have the current Australian squad suffered poor results, they have seen their leading fast bowler withdraw through injury and the coach with whom they started the tour sacked and instigate legal action against their employer. And, all the time, it has become increasingly obvious they are confronted with a superior opponent. With eight more Tests looming between these teams before mid-January, there is a fear that things could turn ugly.
But, unsurprisingly, Anderson was pitiless. A member of the England side humiliated 5-0 in the Ashes series of 2006-07 - one of the lowest ebbs in England's Test history - Anderson has experienced the downside of a life in professional sport and knows that, if the boot was on the other foot, it would not stop kicking.
"I don't really feel any sympathy, to be honest," Anderson said. "Our job is to win games of cricket. We want to win the series 5-0 and we will be doing everything we can in each game to win.
"Memories like losing 5-0 have helped us since then. It's not a great place for a team to be, being on the end of one of those defeats, so everything we focus on is trying to win every game and hopefully if we keep doing that we will be in a good position at the end of the series."
The bad news for Australia is that Anderson feels that England are yet to play at their best. Their failure to finish off the Australian tail - 10th-wicket partnerships have currently accounted for nearly 30% of the runs Australia have scored in the series - and some fragility in England's top order - they were 28 for 3 and 30 for 3 in each innings at Lord's - should ensure there is no complacency and means several players go into the third Test with plenty to prove.
Anderson also insisted that, even if England went 3-0 or even 4-0 up over the next few weeks, he would resent being rested from an Ashes Test.
"We are happy with the cricket we are playing," Anderson said. "But there are improvements we can make. We were 30 for 3 in both innings at Lord's and we have not been perfect with the ball, either. Those 10th-wicket stands are a pain in the backside really and we want to end them.
"At the same time when we have been in tough positions we have been able to get out of them so that is positive and there have been some great individual performances as well. That is put to one side now. We have to concentrate on Old Trafford."
Playing a Test at Old Trafford will be special for Anderson. He has only played three Tests on his home ground and was part of the delegation who lobbied for the club to be given planning permission despite a succession of challenges and is delighted to see Ashes cricket returned to Manchester.
"It will be lovely to play at Old Trafford," Anderson said. "It has been eight years since the ground had an Ashes Test so it is very exciting and I am looking forward to it.
"Cricket is huge in the north of England and I hate Headingley so it is good to play a Test at Old Trafford. There is so much history at the ground and it was in need of a lick of paint, so I think it is going to be an amazing atmosphere. It looks fantastic. There was a genuine threat to its future. If they didn't have the money they couldn't have afforded to do it up and it was looking a bit aged I guess."
Anderson, who was speaking at a Jaguar promotion day, is not convinced that the gap between the England and Australia teams is as big as some are suggesting. He admits that England have, at times, found it hard to gain breakthroughs with the ball, but they have retained their composure, stuck to their plans and, ultimately, won rewards for their efforts.
"We knew it was going to be difficult and we've found it hard at times, but we have always managed to stay calm," he said. "We have put a lot of pressure on them with the ball and that is all we can concentrate on. The rest is out of our hands. We just have to try to maintain the pressure we put them under.
"We've bowled very well and they have had partnerships in both games, but I think we've just stuck to our task really well. We've had good plans and executed them really well so far and not really let them get away from us and that is crucial to maintain going forward."
James Anderson was test driving the new Jaguar XFR-S. For more information visit www.jaguar.com
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo