James Anderson says strong start for Lancashire can help launch England's Ashes campaign
'This is a good opportunity to get a good amount of cricket under our belts'
Last Updated: 03/04/19 6:41pm
England seamer James Anderson says he must pace himself for Lancashire if he is to hit the Ashes in peak form.
Anderson plans to play a leading role in up to 10 County Championship matches for the Red Rose county ahead of the first Test of the summer, against Ireland in July, and the five-match series that follows against Australia as England look to win back the urn.
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The 36-year-old - England's all-time leading wicket-taker - now has his 600th Test scalp in his sights after taking his career tally to 575 with 10 wickets on this winter's tour of the West Indies.
But after missing part of last summer due to a long-standing shoulder injury before returning to spearhead England's 4-1 demolition of India, Anderson says he must manage his workload.
"Obviously the first Test is a while away so for me it is about just focusing on staying fit as best I can and being in as good a condition as I possibly can when that time comes around," he said.
"I think managing my way through these games with Lancashire is a good way of doing that.
"Certainly in seasons gone by there's probably a case of not having enough cricket before the first Test of the summer, usually in early or mid-May, but now there's no excuse.
"For the Test specialists it's a good opportunity to get a good amount of cricket under our belts."
Lancashire have enlisted the services of Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell in their bid to win promotion back to Division One of the Championship and are not the only county to sign Australian talent ahead of this Ashes summer.
That raises the tantalising prospect of Anderson and his England colleagues going head-to-head with some of Australia's potential Ashes squad ahead of the series, which begins on Sky Sports on August 1 - the seamer possibly lining up against Durham captain Cameron Bancroft at Sedbergh School in June.
"It's not too unusual - a lot of Australians come over here and try to get a feel for the conditions," reflected Anderson.
"Obviously a lot of their Test team will be playing in the World Cup and there's quite a few around in the county game.
"A lot of them have been here before in previous seasons. For us it's great to have the best international players around to strengthen our county game."
One player aiming to thrust himself back into the international frame is Anderson's Lancashire team-mate Keaton Jennings, who after failing to score 30 in eight innings for England over the winter was suddenly called back for the third Test against Windies only to score eight and 23.
With England still seeking a long-term replacement for Sir Alastair Cook, not to mention a settled top three, Anderson says the left-hander remains very much in contention for a Test spot.
"Again, there's not usually this amount of time before the first Test of the summer so it can be difficult for particularly opening batsmen to chalk some runs up before that first Test squad is selected," he said.
"So it's a great opportunity for him and everyone else who on the county circuit to put their name into the hat for that Test team. I'm sure he'll be itching to do well."
Speaking at Lancashire's media day, Jennings admitted: "It was a tough winter. From a personal point of view it was really hard work.
"Mentally the disintegration when you see yourself in the news, especially when you aren't doing well, is tough to handle.
"I've always been a level-headed guy. I think I've been quite good at staying isolated in the last 18 months, which is probably why I've stayed sane at times. I've also had the love of my family, which has been fantastic, but it is hard.
"You can walk into a room and feel like everybody is thinking about you playing a cover drive when in reality people are actually going on about their day. You need to take cricket out of your personal life.
"But it's professional sport, you need to bounce back. There's no point going to bed and crying yourself to sleep because at the end of the day I've got a job to do."
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