James Anderson: 'Nobody can cope with on-song England'
James Anderson is in bullish mood ahead of the Ashes, insisting England can hit a level "nobody in the world can cope with".
As the elder statesman of English cricket Anderson tends to steer clear of pre-series mind games - leaving the needling to fellow seamers Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson.
Yet as he prepares to play in his ninth series against Australia, the 40-year-old great cannot hide his optimism for the summer ahead.
A minor groin strain means Anderson looks set to sit out the first home Test of the year, against Ireland at Lord's, leaving him to focus on the Ashes opener at Edgbaston on June 16.
He says he does not expect to play all five Ashes Tests matches at next month's home Ashes series against Australia.
"I think playing all five is a little bit optimistic," he said.
"I think three, not just for myself – if you said to any of the bowlers three out of five, I think that's probably more realistic, more sensible. If it's four then great."
Anderson's long-time bowling partner Broad recently declared England's 4-0 defeat Down Under in 2021/22 as 'void' due to the hangover of COVID-19 restrictions and, although Anderson makes light of that assessment, he strongly believes the current side are a completely different proposition.
"I get his point with the COVID stuff but, for me, I've voided the last three away series. I've lost four out of five, I think. That's his coping strategy," he said with a smile.
"I'm aware of what has happened, but I've played long enough to be able to park everything that's gone before, good and bad, and focus on what's about to come.
"I'm just excited about the way we've been playing. It's about entertaining people and trying to enjoy ourselves while we do it.
"If you look at our team, if we play to the best of our ability with that mindset, I don't think anyone can cope with us.
"If we do what we've been doing and play as well as we possibly can, I think nobody in the world can cope with it."
Since head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes took over last summer, England have won 10 of their 12 Test matches, playing a brand of daring, innovative cricket that has ripped up several chapters of the old rule book.
Stokes' utter commitment to the ethos, as a batting unit and a bowling group, is the driving force behind the reinvention of a team previously associated with conservative methods.
And Anderson, who has served under a host of England captains including the likes of Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Sir Andrew Strauss, has the highest possible praise for the all-rounder.
Asked if Stokes was the best of the lot, he took a long pause before answering: "Yeah. It is hard to say over a short period of time, but he's had an amazing start.
"He's a born leader. I think he is completely different from any captain I've ever played with before and I've really enjoyed it.
"The way he trains, whether it's the gym or whether it's catching or batting or bowling, he is the ultimate professional."