England are hopeful of Anderson's return for fourth Test
LONDON // England are increasingly confident James Anderson, their spearhead fast bowler, will be fit to face India in the fourth and final Test at The Oval starting today.
The Lancashire swing specialist bowled for some 30 minutes in the nets at the south London ground yesterday, having sat out training on Tuesday with a "minor" thigh injury.
England took the precaution of calling up Graham Onions, the Durham seamer bowler who has not played international cricket for over a year, as cover.
Steve Finn, who missed out in the initial squad to Tim Bresnan, was also being touted as a replacement. But yesterday saw Anderson bowling at close to full pace, and he also took part in a brief stint of sprint training.
Andrew Strauss, the England captain, aiming to lead his side to a 4-0 series clean sweep, was buoyed by Anderson's progress, "He seems fine," he said yesterday.
"Like all these things it was a niggle and we'll have to wait and see how he is, but we're very comforted by how he came through today. I think he should be OK."
Onions has not played for England since January 2010 because of a career-threatening back injury and Strauss said: "It's great to see Onions back in the squad.
"He played a very significant part in the 2009 Ashes win and we all have high regard for him as a bowler. With him and Steven Finn, there is definitely strength in depth."
England's crushing innings and 242-run victory, last time out at Edgbaston in Birmingham, left them an unbeatable 3-0 up in this four-match series and took them to the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
But Strauss said there would be no complacency from England at The Oval. "We will approach it in the same way as we would any other Test," he said. "We're desperate to finish the summer on a high.
"The work ethic over the last couple of days has been good and encouraging and I'd be very disappointed if we took our foot off the gas.
"It's always been a long-term goal to get to No 1 so it was a special moment to achieve it.
"We celebrated that we'd achieved one of our goals, but now we're back training again rankings become secondary to what you do on a day-to-day basis.
"We've got to challenge ourselves to keep improving and working hard to improve. There's always the temptation to take the foot off the gas and feel comfortable with what you've done.
"But that's not the nature of international sport, you've got to keep pushing forward."
Now England fans wonder if their team will stand comparison eventually with the great West Indies sides of the 1970s and 1980s, and the Australia teams of the last decade, that dominated Test cricket in their respective eras.
"Those teams created a great legacy by playing that well for a decade," Strauss said.
"We've done it for the last couple of years. We're not trying to be seen as anything, just trying to play as well as we can.
"What happens as a result of that, we will be able to look back on in years to come."
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Published: August 18, 2011 04:00 AM