England star James Anderson has been ruled out of the remainder of the Ashes series with a calf injury, in a blow to home hopes of winning the series against Australia.
Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, has not bowled in the series since breaking down with the injury after delivering just four overs in Australia’s 251-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston.
The 37-year-old Lancashire paceman had tried to get fit for the fourth Test at his Old Trafford home ground starting on Wednesday.
But after bowling during a second XI match against Durham this week he has been declared unfit for the final two Tests of the series.
On the same day Australia had better news, with star batsman Steve Smith proving his fitness by batting in his first competitive game since suffering concussion after being felled by fast bowler Jofra Archer in the second Ashes Test.
Smith, in the middle for 47 minutes in Australia’s three-day match against Derbyshire, faced 38 balls and struck two fours on his way to a total of 23 before he was caught out. Not a great innings but a morale booster for the tourists.
England will travel to Manchester all square at 1-1 in the five-match contest after Ben Stokes’s stunning 135 not saw them to a dramatic one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley last week.
“England and Lancashire seamer James Anderson has been ruled out for the rest of the Specsavers Ashes series,” said an England and Wales Cricket Board statement issued.
“Whilst bowling in the ninth over on Thursday in Lancashire’s second XI four-day friendly against Durham at Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club, Anderson became aware of right calf pain following on from 20 overs he had bowled on Tuesday.
“He immediately sought a medical assessment from Lancashire and was withdrawn from the remainder of the game,” the statement added.
“Further review with the ECB medical team has confirmed that he will be unavailable for the remaining two Specsavers Ashes Tests.”
Anderson has taken 575 wickets in 149 Tests at 26.94.
His tally is the most by any quick bowler, with Anderson fourth in the all-time list of leading Test wicket-takers.
And his new-ball partnership with Stuart Broad is the most-successful in Tests between two fast bowlers -- they have taken more than 850 wickets in games together.
Anderson may now have made his final Ashes appearance given he will be 39 by the time England tour Australia in 2021/22.
And it’s possible his Test career could be over, although the prospect of becoming the first fast bowler to 600 wickets in the format may spur him on to make a comeback on England’s upcoming tours of New Zealand and South Africa.
England have now added Somerset quick Craig Overton into a 13-man squad for the fourth Test.
Overton, who has appeared in three Tests, is back in the squad for the first time since March 2018 when he played in England’s loss to New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland.
In eight County Championship matches this season, the 25-year-old has taken 32 wickets at an average of 21.34.
England also have another pace-bowling option in Surrey left-armer Sam Curran, who has retained his squad place after not featuring in the XI at Headingley.
Overton and Curran will likely be vying for the role of a fourth paceman along with Chris Woakes in an England seam attack where Broad has taken 14 wickets at 25.35 so far this series.
But the emergence of express fast bowler and World Cup winning star Archer has added a new dimension to England’s bowling in Test.
Meanwhile the willingness of paceman Stokes, in his own words, to do the “hard yards” makes the all-rounder, England’s vice-captain, a key man with both bat and ball for skipper Joe Root.
Despite being bowled out for just 67 -- their lowest Ashes total in 71 years -- in the first innings at Headingley, England have retained the same set of specialist batsmen, although they could yet rejig their top order.
Rory Burns (Surrey), Jason Roy (Surrey), Joe Root (Yorkshire, capt), Joe Denly (Kent), Ben Stokes (Durham), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire, wkt), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jack Leach (Somerset), Sam Curran (Surrey), Craig Overton (Somerset)