By Rob Barnett
James Anderson and Stuart Broad today join up with the England Performance Programme fast bowlers camp in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and the other seamers on the trip are eagerly anticipating their arrival.
Anderson and Broad are on the comeback trail from knee injuries that ruled them out of England’s current tour to Sri Lanka.
Anderson was initially part of England’s squad for Sri Lanka but was ruled out of the trip in early November to continue rehabilitation on his left-knee injury.
Soon after he said he expects to resume bowling on the EPP camp, and that prospect is now imminent.
Anderson and Broad’s Test team-mate Liam Plunkett, himself bowling again after a summer injury, is among the seven players who have already been on the programme for a week, rubbing shoulders with Olympic athletes at the high-altitude training centre.
Plunkett, who has not tasted competitive action since July due to an ankle problem, told ecb.co.uk: “I enjoy playing with them and I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting out here and get some bowling.
“I think they’ll be looking forward to a bit of altitude training. It’ll be good to get them over here.”
Plunkett’s county team-mate Jack Brooks, instrumental in Yorkshire winning the LV= County Championship last season for the first time in 13 years, is also on the trip.
Brooks, part of the EPP for the first time in three years and like Plunkett in the England Lions squad to tour to South Africa in the new year, said: “It’ll be great fun. I’ve met them both a couple of times before.
“I haven’t had an awful lot to do with either of them. I haven’t played with or against them, but I trained with them a little bit before when I was out here a few years ago.
“It’ll be good to bounce ideas off them and talk a bit of bowling with them, just watch them go about their business.
“They’ll be coming back from niggles and injuries – Broad had quite a serious injury – so I’m not sure they’ll be flat out to begin with.
“But it’ll be good to speak to them, good to train with them and it will be good for them to look at us as well and see what they can do to help us hopefully.
— Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8) December 1, 2014
“We’re all going towards one goal. Everyone wants to play for England and do well for England. Hopefully we can all push each other on.”
While Brooks, Yorkshire’s leading championship wicket-taker this year with 68 scalps at 28, has England aspirations, the 30-year-old thinks he is some way off realising those.
“I don’t look to far ahead to be honest. I’ve changed a bit in the last few years. I’m a little bit more relaxed,” he continued.
“I just want to go out and enjoy my cricket and be the best that I can be.
“I’ve always had a goal of wanting to play for England and wanting to better myself, but that’s still a long way off.
“I’m a little way down the pecking order. I’ve got a bit of work yet to try and force my way in.
“I’m just trying to work hard and get my fitness right before Christmas and then go on the Lions tour in the new year and do as well as I can to help the team win. I haven’t really got too many goals at the minute. I don’t want to look too far ahead.”
Plunkett, having played in England’s first four Tests of the summer before his injury, seemingly has better prospects than Brooks of senior international action.
Not currently a part of England’s limited-overs international plans, Plunkett is nevertheless candid about his chances of going on the spring Test tour of the Caribbean.
“My aim to come here was to get myself up to bowling speed and feel good and to get rid of any niggles that I have. Whatever comes after that is a plus,” he said.
“I know it’s fairly easy to say that. You want to play as much as you can, but I want to feel like I am at full strength when I go in (to a game).
“It’s a shame I got injured but I feel in a good place. I got that incremental (contract) so they (the ECB) backed me a little bit, which I’m happy with.
“If I can come out of this feeling really good about myself and there’s the Lions trip after Christmas and I can go out all guns blazing and put myself forward for England in the West Indies, then that will be great.”
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