|| AFP ||
James Anderson cannot wait to rejoin a "fearless" England team, unlike any he has known in two decades of international cricket, in this week's long-delayed India series finale.
Friday's match in Birmingham comes just four days after England completed a 3-0 rout of Test world champions New Zealand.
Before that series, England had won just one of 17 Tests. That was against India in Leeds last year.
But India fought back to lead 2-1 only for the deciding encounter to be postponed just a couple of hours before it was due to begin at Manchester's Old Trafford in September, with the tourists withdrawing due to a Covid-19 scare.
The fifth Test is being staged at Edgbaston instead, with England buoyed by chasing down stiff targets of 277, 299 and 296 against the Black Caps in swashbuckling style under their new red-ball leadership duo of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, himself a former New Zealand skipper.
Anderson first played international cricket in 2002. His 651 wickets and 171 Tests are both England records.
Even the 39-year-old swing specialist has been taken aback by how England maintained an exceptional run-rate of 4.54 per over during the New Zealand series. In-form former captain Joe Root and the rejuvenated Jonny Bairstow both scored nearly 400 runs apiece, with both Yorkshireman posting two hundreds each.
"I have never been in a dressing room before when we have chased almost 300 on a pitch that is turning and everyone being so calm, just believing we were going to chase them down," Anderson, 39, told reporters on Wednesday.
"That for me, after 20 years of playing international cricket, was something I had never seen before...As a bowler, I think it's horrible! I don't want to think of someone coming at me like that. But the confidence our batters have got at the moment...they're just fearless."
Coronavirus may have led to a late abandonment in Manchester, but a repeat performance is unlikely in Birmingham, even though India captain Rohit Sharma has tested positive for Covid-19.
England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes is another virus victim. He was struck down during the New Zealand series finale at Headingley. Team officials hope he could be back behind the stumps against India.
Anderson, one of just four survivors in England's squad from the team that lost the fourth Test against India at Oval last year, aims to return after missing the third Test against New Zealand with a sore left ankle. His replacement Jamie Overton made 97 on Test debut.
"I feel pretty good, fingers crossed I can get back in this week," said Anderson.
India will make a last-minute decision on Rohit. Fellow opener KL Rahul is already out with a groin injury.
Rohit was India's top run-scorer in England last year, amassing 368 runs in four matches, including 127 at the Oval, while Rahul made 315 runs, with his 129 the cornerstone of a fine win at Lord's.
Indian media reports have suggested fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, rather than former captain Virat Kohli, could be the stand-in skipper if Rohit is sidelined. Coach Rahul Dravid said on Wednesday any decision would be announced by "official sources".
Dravid, who succeeded Ravi Shastri late last year, added India would give Rohit every chance to play.
"He's not yet been ruled out," Dravid said. "We've still got close to 36 hours to go, so he'll have a test Wednesday night and one Thursday morning as well. Then we'll see."
Star batsman Kohli remains without a Test century since 2019, in which time he has averaged a lowly 28 from 17 matches.
He will be desperately keen to end that lean spell by helping India to a first series win in England since 2007 and just their fourth in total.