With two pink-ball Tests set to be played in the series – including the Second Test in Adelaide – England are keen to have Anderson at full tilt, so he will sit out the opener.
Anderson is 39 and had to withdraw from the last Ashes series after just four overs at Edgbaston with another muscle injury.
England say Anderson is fully fit and could have thrown caution to the wind and played their record wicket-taker on a surface that is expected to be green, but feel they have the options to cover his absence in what could be a game shortened by the weather.
“Jimmy is fit to play, and is not carrying an injury,” said an ECB spokesperson. “With five Tests in six weeks the plan was to get him ready for the second Test in Adelaide.
“With the limited build-up we have had so far on the tour, both him and the management didn’t want to take the risk of him playing after what had happened in 2019 at Edgbaston, when he broke down on the first morning.
“He bowled at full capacity yesterday for just short of an hour and was in a good place physically.
“He will do the same again today at practice [Tuesday].
“He will stay with the Test group this week and work with the coaches at the Gabba rather than playing for the Lions.”
The move makes sense. The Gabba is Anderson’s worst Australian venue (he averages 75 from four Tests there), while Adelaide is his best (average 24.6).
Chris Woakes is set to play in Anderson’s place, with Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson also likely to make the XI. Whether Anderson’s old mucker Stuart Broad plays depends on whether they opt for a spinner, Jack Leach. The spinner appears favourite to play.
Broad, 35, has not played since early August due to a calf tear. Given their limited warm-up (rain meant seven days’ warm-p became just seven sessions), England are wary of overburdening their ageing champions Anderson and Broad.
It is felt that playing the First Test would significantly lessen their chances of playing the Second, which begins just four days after the opener ends. It was always likely that only one of Anderson and Broad would play each of the first two Tests.
Ben Stokes will complete a five-man attack, but is unlikely to be overworked as he also eases back into action.
England are likely to slim their squad of 18 down to 13 for the match today, leaving Anderson out. The other selection question is Ollie Pope or Jonny Bairstow at No6.