England’s ruthless effort to replace Anderson and Broad starts at Lord’s

Brendon McCullum posted a tweet at 8.39pm on 5 July 2017. “Jimmy Anderson 122 Tests, 467 wickets. Stuart Broad 102 Tests, 368 wickets. Whenever the time comes, good luck replacing that!”

About that, Brendon. It is your job now. One more thing, seven years later those stats are even more ­nosebleed-inducing: Stuart Broad: 167 Tests and 604 wickets. Jimmy Anderson: 187 Tests and 700 wickets (and counting) A combined tally of 1,304 Test wickets and 37 years of experience. Good luck indeed when the Test summer starts at Lord’s on Wednesday.

“They are big boots to fill, ­certainly,” says Peter Moores, the Nottinghamshire and former England men’s coach who worked with Broad and Anderson at ­international level. “But what is really exciting is that there are plenty of fast bowlers ­coming through and they are going to get their chance, Dillon is very much in that mix.”

After making the move from Worcestershire at the end of last season, the 25-year-old Dillon Pennington has had a breakout ­season at Nottinghamshire under the charge of Moores and the former England fast bowling coach Kevin Shine. Standing 6ft 5in tall, blond with a ­lantern jaw and Himalayan shoulders, Pennington has bowled himself into the Test squad with relentless accuracy and ­wicket-taking in Division One of the County Championship. Moores cannot speak highly enough of him

“He’s a lovely lad first up, he’s open and keen to learn. He’s ­certainly got the attributes to succeed at ­international level.”

Moores has been particularly impressed with how Pennington has picked up wickets in different conditions. “He’s got pace, accuracy and can bowl long spells.”

Pennington, Durham’s Matthew Potts and Surrey’s Gus Atkinson will hope to stake a claim in the seamer department that has opened up courtesy of Ollie Robinson, who seems to have run out of rope at international level. He was not so long ago being touted as a future torch ­carrier of the attack, but based on recent poor showings in crucial matches there is a feeling that he would ­probably drop said torch somewhere into his second spell of carrying it, despite declaring himself as “never better” in the ­torch-carrying department.

After failing to act on the ­multiple kicks up the backside on the ­conditioning front it is clear why England felt they should turn to other options.

“It’s not a time to be taking your foot off the gas at all,” said Robert Key when explaining Robinson’s omission, a somewhat pointed choice of words when you consider the 30-year-old’s bowling speeds dropped into the late 60mph range in Ranchi in his last Test.

The speed thing is important. While not quite heading down a Duncan Fletcher-esque obsession with pace it is clear that Key and co are not going to be suckered in by statistician purring numbers put up by county cricket’s line and length merchants, choosing instead to go with their gut, their eyes and their WhatsApp groups.

Atkinson has a languid action and fast arm that resembles Jofra Archer’s. He can match Archer’s pace too – touching 95mph when on song. Atkinson has international caps in both white-ball formats and a Test debut is surely close.

“Pace is so important at Test-match level” says Moores. “The ability to maintain it throughout spells and come back strong repeatedly. From what I’ve seen of Gus Atkinson I’ve been very impressed.”

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Fred Trueman memorably said that to be a great fast bowler “you need a big heart and a big bottom”, the recalled Potts is deemed to have “ticker” and is in possession of the sort of muscular derriere that Jilly Cooper could devote chapters to. The 25-year-old is more than just a wholehearted workhorse but those attributes are certainly part of his appeal, especially in light of the Robinson travails. “For a lot of these guys coming through it will be about how they settle into the international arena, some find their feet sooner than others.” says Moores.

Potts impressed when given his opportunity, seven wickets on Test debut against New Zealand at Lord’s in 2022, showed he had a taste for the big stage. “Credit to Ben and Brendon for creating an environment that seems perfect for a young player to go into,” says Moores.

Durham’s Matthew Potts has impressed when given the chance. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

But what of the Chris Woakes conundrum? Woakes showed how much he can offer during last year’s Ashes when he was named player of the series for his 19 ­wickets in three Tests but it is clear Key, McCullum and Ben Stokes are ­building a side to take England into a new chapter, with one eye on the trip to Australia next winter and the hope of being ­significantly more competitive than the urn-less tundra of the past decade.

Woakes has the experience and skill to shepherd a new attack in the home summer but by his own admission he is “not at peace with the Kookaburra ball” and is not the answer to England winning series in Australia or India. He has not played a Test overseas since March 2022.

The three men in charge of England’s Test side have shown that they are willing to be ruthless in order to future proof. Woakes, one of England’s most skilful operators with the ball in his hand is wise enough to have noted this newly clinical approach. And yetThe 35-year-old has the Dukes on a string in England – his average in home Test matches (21.88) is better than Anderson’s (24.50) and Broad’s (25.92). Time comes for everyone in the end, but good luck replacing that.

The Guardian