England can cope without Prior, insists star bowler

 
Julian Harris
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ENGLAND’S star fast-bowler James Anderson insists that neither bad weather nor a missing wicketkeeper have derailed the tourists’ preparations for the second Ashes series of 2013, starting on Thursday.

Anderson threw his weight behind Jonny Bairstow yesterday, who may have to deputise if Matt Prior fails to recover from a calf injury in time for the opening Test in Brisbane.

Bairstow performed well behind the stumps during England’s seven-wicket win in the final warm-up match against an Australian Invitational XI, taking seven catches.

“He did very well, got some runs and kept brilliantly,” Anderson said. “If Matt’s not fit, Jonny will be a more than capable replacement.”

Two of England’s three preparation matches have been disturbed by rain, yet Anderson maintains that the conditions have not blunted his team’s attack. “Although we’ve missed days for rain, we’ve actually built up really nicely and everyone’s in a really good place,” Anderson said. “[We have] just got enough bowling in to be fit and raring to go on Thursday.”

Anderson’s fellow seamer Stuart Broad has been in excellent form of late, taking six wickets in the latest warm-up match.

The position of England’s third fast-bowler is yet to be confirmed, although bowling coach David Saker said yesterday that they have already made up their mind.

“I think we’re pretty clear in our minds where we’re going to go,” Saker said. “I’m not going to announce who’s going to play, but we’re pretty clear who we’re going to pick.” Yet the coach said that there is still time for a different bowler to “jump the queue” and change the selectors’ minds.

The place is set to go to one of Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin. And there is still a chance that two spinners could be called up to one or more of the five Tests, with Graeme Swann saying yesterday that he would love to bowl alongside Monty Panesar during the series.

“If it does spin [in the second test at Adelaide] and we play two, it’ll be great, because I love playing with Monty – he’s crackers,” Swann said.

ASHES CLASHES

Tour schedule
■ 1st Test – Brisbane, 21-25 November

■ 2nd Test – Adelaide, 5-9 December

■ 3rd Test – Perth, 13-17 December

■ 4th Test – Melbourne, 26-30 December

■ 5th Test – Sydney, 3-7 January