London: England are considering leaving spearhead fast bowler James Anderson out of their team for next week's third Test against West Indies at Edgbaston in order to give the Lancashire seamer a rest.
The hosts, 2-0 up in the three-match series, are due to name their squad on Sunday. Reports in the British press on Saturday indicated Anderson could be omitted for the 'dead' match, with England facing another crowded home international programme. Test cricket, despite the growing global appeal of Twenty20, has remained the priority for English administrators, fans and players alike.
According to a report in the Guardian, Anderson, named England's player of the year last month, is fully fit following a minor thigh problem. The 29-year-old has missed just one of England's previous 25 Tests and, having spent much of his early international career as a squad player, is keen to add to his tally of 267 wickets which places him fifth on his country's all-time list of most successful Test bowlers.
He took six wickets in England's nine-wicket win at Trent Bridge, where he and Stuart Broad, with Tim Bresnan as third seamer, continued to torment the tourists' fragile top order. England are due to play three Tests against South Africa, challenging them as the world's number one ranked side in the five-day game, later in the season and have a host of one-day games with both West Indies and South Africa as well. In between the two main tours, they are also set for a one-day series with arch-rivals Australia.
However, that campaign was called into question on Saturday after reports in the Australian press warned of a possible strike by Australia players in protest over revised performance-related pay rules.
While an abandoned series would clearly have financial implications for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), it could prove a boon for Broad, a mainstay in all three major formats and England's Twenty20 captain. When England, in a reflection of Test cricket's ongoing supremacy in the sport's homeland, have rested players, they've tended to do so in one-dayers.
Test skipper Andrew Strauss, speaking shortly after his side had wrapped up victory with more than a day to spare at Trent Bridge, said 'rotation' was on the agenda but was understandably cautious about its implications. "It's always a balance to strike because primarily you want to win every Test you play: that's the starting point," he said.
England do have the option of calling up seamers Steven Finn and Graham Onions, included in squads for the first two Tests but yet to feature this series, should they give one of their 'regulars' a break. Finn replaced an injured Anderson at Lord's last year in one of just his two Tests since he was withdrawn midway through England's victorious Ashes campaign in Australia.
Since then Tim Bresnan, on the winning side in all his 13 Tests, has established himself as the regular support act for the new ball duo. England's batting line-up, where Strauss has returned to form with a hundred in the first Test at Lord's and another at Trent Bridge, is likely to remain unaltered at Edgbaston.
Concerns had been raised by recently-capped Jonathan Bairstow's problems against the short ball at Trent Bridge. But these will have eased since West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach, his main tormentor at Nottingham, was ruled out of the rest of the tour with a shin injury earlier this week.