Leaving aside the odd season of injury comebacks, it's been 15 extraordinary years since James Anderson last went into a home summer as anything other than England's attack leader. You have to go way back to the India series in 2007, when his second Test five-for at Lord's hinted at the bowler he was about to come, for the last time Anderson was genuinely out to prove his worth, rather than cement the credentials he had already established.
And so it was an oddly cagey Anderson who faced the media in Leicester on Monday, at the behest of the Test sponsors LV= Insurance, but before he'd had any cast-iron assurances that his name will be back in the frame for another Lord's appearance, when the squad for the first Test against New Zealand is announced on Wednesday.
"Until that squad's picked I'm not counting on anything," he said. "My job's to try and prove that I'm in good form, take wickets for Lancashire and help them win games. That's all I'm bothered about, and then we'll see what happens whenever the team is announced."
Chicken-counting aside, however, Anderson's return for his 170th Test appearance, and 96th on home soil, is a given. Not only has he proven his form and fitness on the county circuit - including with the eye-catching dismissal of his former England captain, Joe Root, in last week's Roses clash - he and his long-term sidekick Stuart Broad are just about the only capped England seamers available to Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum as they prepare to begin their captain-coach alliance in a fortnight's time.
Saqib Mahmood and Matt Fisher, both of whom debuted in Anderson's and Broad's absence in the Caribbean, have succumbed to stress fractures, the same complaint that Sam Curran is currently returning from, while Craig Overton and Chris Woakes - who shared the new ball in Antigua in March - are labouring with knee injuries. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood are coming back from elbow operations, and Ollie Robinson - the man who ought to be in possession - has been a fitness concern since struggling through the Hobart Test in January.
Anderson and Broad, on the other hand, just keep rumbling on. "I don't know, it's just luck I guess," he said of their longevity. "We still love playing, we're really hungry to take wickets, and still love that feeling you get from it. I've spoken to Stuart a lot over the last few months, we still feel like we've got a lot to give the game, whether it's for Notts or Lancashire, or for England."
Nevertheless, Anderson admitted that, with his 40th birthday approaching in July, his omission for the West Indies tour had caused him to reassess his priorities as he enters his 20th season as an international cricketer.
"I definitely questioned it, yeah," he said. "I talked it through with my family as well, and they saw it as I did, that I feel like I've got more to give to the game. The longer time went on, the more I was with the Lancs lads doing pre-season training. I was still doing the gym work, and I wasn't bored of it. I wanted to be there doing it, irrelevant of what was going to happen in the summer.
"If I play the whole season for Lancashire, then great. If I get a Test call-up then brilliant, but at the minute I'm really enjoying playing cricket. It did come into question, I guess - do I want to do I want to carry on? But in my head, I quickly decided I did want to see what happened this year."
James Anderson attended a #Funds4Runs community initiative in LeicesterLV= Insurance/#Funds4Runs
And if there were any residual doubts, then they were emphatically quashed by the 11th and most recent of his first-class wickets this season - the uprooting of Root's off and middle stumps at Headingley on Sunday, as Anderson's typically frugal figures of 15-7-17-2 briefly set Lancashire up for a final-day victory push against Yorkshire.
"I did enjoy that one, it was nice to get a player of Joe's quality out," Anderson said. And it was doubtless all the sweeter given that Root had still been England captain for the Caribbean tour, and therefore was at least complicit in Anderson's controversial omission.
Did he say anything to Root when he got him out? "Absolutely not, no. Didn't need to. Just pick the two stumps off the ground," Anderson said. "We do talk. We've not fallen out or anything. Yeah, we chatted. I spoke to him before he announced that he was stepping down. There's still a huge amount of respect between the two of us so there's no animosity.
"The biggest thing for me [on Sunday] was that we were pushing for a win," Anderson added. "Obviously he got 140 in the first innings; we know how good a player he is. A few of our guys were seeing him up close for the first time and realising how good a player he is; they all commented on it. It was fruitless in the end, but we were pushing hard for that win, and he was the best player so it was nice to get the best player."
Three months after the event, Anderson says he hasn't had a full explanation for his omission from the Test squad, and still doesn't know whether there was a perceived issue with his attitude in Australia, where his eight wickets at 23.37 couldn't prevent a 4-0 series loss. However, with his focus now back on adding to his England-record tally of 640 wickets, his thoughts are firmly fixed on the coming summer, as he hopes to help the new team hierarchy pick the performances up after a torrid 12 months.
"It's gone now. It's history. I'm not bothered about what's gone in the past," he said. "All I can control is what I do in the future. I've got to try to prove that I'm still good enough to play international cricket and keep my fingers crossed that the selectors and the captain think so as well.
"I don't think from a performance point of view my confidence would have taken a knock. I felt like I bowled well in Australia and since I've been bowling back in England I've felt like I'm in good shape and bowling well. So from that point of view I feel like I know what I'm doing and I don't think that will change, really.
"I guess you do start questioning other things when that sort of thing happens - is it something I've done around the group or whatever else? I guess that's the one thing that you start thinking about. But when it comes to cricket I'm pretty confident that I'm doing okay."
Anderson will be reassured too by the vote of confidence he received from Stokes after his accession to the Test captaincy, and is ready to return the compliment after seeing glimpses of his leadership style during the Ashes campaign.
"He's a natural leader and the lads all look up to him in the dressing-room," Anderson said. "When he's had the opportunity to be captain I think there was maybe an hour in Australia, and you could see he's got a real good tactical brain on him. He's the hardest trainer in the group and sets the example of how to be an international cricketer.
"We're at quite a low point at the minute as a Test side. Where we are in the Test championship, we're going to have to do something serious to be able to turn it around and get back up towards where we want to be, towards the top. I don't think that necessarily happens overnight. But with Brendon and Ben, we're never going to take a backward step. It could be a really exciting time for English cricket."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
- Sources - French prospect Rayan Rupert to play in New Zealand - ESPN - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand take charge of second Test with England left to rue missed chances - The Guardian - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand batters thrive without Williamson and teach England lesson - The Guardian - June 11th, 2022
- Air New Zealand raises annual earnings forecast on improved demand - Reuters - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand plans in tatters after Kane Williamson is ruled out with Covid-19 - The Guardian - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand sets up helpline for adults sexually attracted to children - The Guardian - June 11th, 2022
- I just flew to Sydney, and yes, New Zealand is (still) a hermit kingdom - Stuff - June 11th, 2022
- Cheat Sheet: Why is New Zealand so obsessed with the weather? - Stuff - June 11th, 2022
- Five of the best small New Zealand towns to visit in June - Stuff - June 11th, 2022
- Senior VP Dave Shaw: UFC 'actively trying to get back' to Canada, New Zealand and Australia - MMA Junkie - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand make hay as England suffer from winning good toss to lose - The Guardian - June 11th, 2022
- Bad weather to blame in NZ paraglider Charlotte O'Leary's death in France - New Zealand Herald - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand sweat on Reid fitness ahead of World Cup playoff - Reuters - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand Toast Triple Gold In Mackay | Scoop News - Scoop - June 11th, 2022
- Underplayed to the point of parody, is Daryl Mitchell the uber-Kiwi? - ESPNcricinfo - June 11th, 2022
- How hard is it to lure nurses to New Zealand? - RNZ - June 11th, 2022
- Premium Debate: New Zealand has changed, and not for the better - Bay of Plenty Times - June 11th, 2022
- Is this Auckland property New Zealand's most valuable nugget of land? - Stuff - June 11th, 2022
- Heavy rain, snow, tornados to hit parts of New Zealand over the weekend - Newshub - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand Legend Ross Taylor Hints At Possible Return To T20 Cricket - Cricket Addictor - June 11th, 2022
- American Airlines: The decision that led to return to New Zealand - New Zealand Herald - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand Aids Foundation dropping Aids from its name - Stuff - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand woman placed in abusive foster care wins appeal against deportation from Australia - RNZ - June 11th, 2022
- New Zealand were 'slightly undercooked' at Lord's; they'll come hard in second Test: Nasser Hussain - The New Indian Express - June 11th, 2022
- The best places in New Zealand to work from home - Stuff - June 11th, 2022
- England vs New Zealand live stream: how to watch 1st Test cricket 2022 online from anywhere - TechRadar - June 1st, 2022
- California and New Zealand Partner to Advance Global Climate Leadership | California Governor - Office of Governor Gavin Newsom - June 1st, 2022
- In Advance of New Zealand Borders Reopening, NZ Minister of Education Hipkins Champions Study-Abroad Opportunities in New Zealand - Business Wire - June 1st, 2022
- How to Watch Into the Wild New Zealand Series Premiere: Live Stream, TV Channel, Start Time - Sports Illustrated - June 1st, 2022
- From the Archives | England v New Zealand | Lord's - Lord's - June 1st, 2022
- Southee: 'The Kiwi way is to muck in and get the best out of what we've got' - ESPNcricinfo - June 1st, 2022
- Major New Zealand salmon producer shuts farms as warming waters cause mass die-offs - The Guardian - June 1st, 2022
- Kane Williamson working out who is ready to go for New Zealand - The Independent - June 1st, 2022
- Winner of Miss Teen New Zealand pageant has her sights set on overseas - Stuff - June 1st, 2022
- Stinky seaweed is clogging Caribbean beaches but a New Zealand solution could turn it into green power and fertiliser - Stuff - June 1st, 2022
- Resurgent COVID-19, flu and other viruses are pushing New Zealand's health system to the limit and now winter is coming - The Conversation Indonesia - June 1st, 2022
- New footage of flying air taxis coming to New Zealand - Stuff - June 1st, 2022
- West Coast cave closed to protect New Zealand's weirdest spider - New Zealand Herald - June 1st, 2022
- One-quarter of New Zealand police officers now women - Newshub - June 1st, 2022
- Petrol on the Fire: The two words from a Prime Minister that set off a fierce reaction Chapter 3: Spies and Brides - Stuff - June 1st, 2022
- Matariki celebrations and New Zealand winter warmers to add to the calendar - New Zealand Herald - June 1st, 2022
- Gregor Paul: The many red flags in NZ Rugby's Silver Lake deal - New Zealand Herald - June 1st, 2022
- New Zealand again falls short of meeting commitment to refugees - Stuff - June 1st, 2022
- New Zealand to train Ukrainians on L119 howitzer - DefenseNews.com - May 25th, 2022
- I thought I was imagining things: New Zealand readers on close encounters with city birds - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand has just joined an overtly anti-China alliance are the economic risks worth it? - The Conversation Indonesia - May 25th, 2022
- Reader call-out: What are your best memories of New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street? - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- Price of New Zealand passport rises - 1News - May 25th, 2022
- More people leaving New Zealand than entering as young flee high cost of living - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealands promised action on climate is nothing more than a tottering babys first steps - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- How will the Australia-New Zealand relationship change? - RNZ - May 25th, 2022
- Livestreams of Mass Shootings: From Buffalo to New Zealand - The New York Times - May 25th, 2022
- WWF-New Zealand: New Tech Is A Win-Win For Conservation And Fisheries | Scoop News - Scoop - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand participation at World Expo crucial to build 'soft power' globally - Stuff - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand Coastal Shipping Boost Biggest Turnaround This Century | Scoop News - Scoop - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand Leads Medical Breakthrough In Oxygen Therapy | Scoop News - Scoop - May 25th, 2022
- Kane Williamson Set To Join New Zealand Team Ahead Of Test Series Against England - Cricket Addictor - May 25th, 2022
- Unicef report finds if everyone consumed resources like New Zealand, we would need 2.7 Earths to keep up with consumption - Newshub - May 25th, 2022
- How the Bay of Plenty could be one of New Zealand's best food destinations - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Dukes balls criticised ahead of New Zealand's three-test series versus England - Stuff - May 25th, 2022
- England v New Zealand live stream and team news: Ben Stokes to start role as captain against Kane... - talkSPORT - May 25th, 2022
- Coroner to open investigation into death of New Zealander Joseph Day this week - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Sickness season: How is New Zealand tracking with non-Covid illnesses? - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Gregor Paul: How New Zealand's drop goal stigma is handing an advantage to the North - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Covid-19 update: 17 further deaths, 7800 cases reported in New Zealand - RNZ - May 25th, 2022
- Head of Qualitative Practice be the heartbeat of Qual, Auckland, New Zealand - B&T - May 25th, 2022
- Tall poppy syndrome and 'proudly local': The things Kiwi expats notice about New Zealand that tourists don't - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- Obituary - David Ian Pool: The Father of Aotearoa New Zealand Demography - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- New Zealand battered by machine gun tornado - PerthNow - May 21st, 2022
- 30 years on... The unveiling of a New Zealand sporting great - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022: New Zealand announce 18-strong athletics team - New Zealand Herald - May 21st, 2022
- MMMBop hitmakers Hanson to play one New Zealand show in November - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- New Zealand overtourism: Residents invite tourists to 'tread lightly and leave no trace' - Euronews - May 21st, 2022
- Former New Zealand Women Cricketer Katey Martin Reveals Reason Behind Early Retirement - Cricketnmore - May 21st, 2022
- Special Ukraine visa: Jump in the number of people seeking refuge in NZ - RNZ - May 21st, 2022
- Former lock picker and hacker to represent New Zealand at global cyber security event - Newshub - May 21st, 2022
- We need to spend billions replacing old hospitals - so who should pay? - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- Massive 6.7 magnitude earthquake hits near New Zealand and Australia prompting Tsunami fears... - The US Sun - May 21st, 2022
- Easy ride to mental health - New Zealand News - New Zealand Herald - May 21st, 2022
- Snowfall warnings as severe 'winter blast' bears down on New Zealand - Stuff - May 21st, 2022