James Anderson picked up the injury during Lancashire's County Championship match against Durham on July 2 Getty

England have suffered a pre-Ashes blow with news that James Anderson has suffered a low-grade calf muscle tear.

The 36-year old picked up the injury during Lancashire's County Championship match against Durham on July 2. An MRI scan on Friday revealed the extent of the damage to his right calf and will miss his county's next two Championship matches against Northamptonshire and Sussex.

Anderson, as England's greatest bowler, has been building to the summer's Test matches against Ireland and Australia with a more regular programme of county cricket due to the volume of limited overs cricket at the start of the summer because of the World Cup. While he has been managed through the opening months and taken his first-class tally to 950 wickets in the process, this injury comes as a huge blow to England's hopes to retain the Ashes.

This is likely to be Anderson's last series against Australia and is a vital part of their plan to reclaim the urn. The use of 2018's Dukes balls instead of the 2019 variety would further skew things in his favour: across the last three English summers, he has 102 Test dismissals at an average of 15.83.

He will begin his rehabilitation under the watch of the England and Lancashire medical teams and assessed on an ongoing basis. A decision on his availability for the first Test of the summer, against Ireland at Lord's which begins on July 24, will be the first port of call.

Though life beyond Anderson is a harrowing thought for England, the World Cup has shown the cupboard is not quite bare. Chris Woakes, who last played a Test in August 2018, is in good form and seems free from injury, as does Mark Wood whose average pace is as high as it ever has been. Jofra Archer, too, has impressed at international level and is now available for Test selection after fulfilling his domestic qualification back in March. However, it is likely he will need to rest following the end of the World Cup.

Nonetheless, England are a different side without their premier swing bowler and will hope Anderson's recovery will be as smooth and as quick as possible.