Jimmy Anderson is a freak. Why else would he stick around for one club – Lancashire – right from 2002, take wickets for fun, have an end named after him and end up as England’s first Test bowler to 500 Test wickets?
On Friday, the sensational Lancashire seamer snapped up Kraigg Brathwaite in the third over West Indies’ second innings to complete the inevitable record. He always seemed destined for 500 wickets after he took over the English record of most Test wickets from Ian Botham (383 Test scalps) in 2015.
But to be the first Englishman and third seamer in the history of cricket, after Courtney Walsh and Glenn McGrath, shows the kind of bowler he has been for England over the past decade. Although he made his Test debut one year after his Lancashire debut, Anderson found it hard to break into the eleven consistently with Matthew Hoggard, Steven Harmison and Simon Jones being the preferred trio. But once he remodelled his action and returned in 2007, there was no stopping Anderson.
England have had some outstanding fast bowlers. Names like Fred Trueman, Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Brian Statham, Darren Gough and Alec Bedser come to mind. But none of them have achieved anything close to James Anderson. Even his partner in crime, Stuart Broad, who is immensely talented has struggled to match up to Anderson’s guile.
When Lancashire renamed the Pavilion End at Old Trafford to James Anderson end before the fourth and final Test against the South Africans this year, they knew exactly what they were doing. They haven’t had a more loyal player over the years. The bowler himself was “blown away” to receive such a rave recognition during his playing days.
“To have this happen when I’m still playing and potentially bowling from that end is a bit surreal. It is something that usually happens when people have stopped playing or are further down the line. It is just an amazing honour”, James Anderson had said after the receiving the rare honour.
And how did he repay them? He ripped apart the Proteas, bowling from the end named after him, and finishing with seven wickets in the Test that included dismissing their adamant skipper Faf du Plessis twice and cracking open their watchful opener Dean Elgar.
Anderson is a Lannister, who always pays his dues on time. The swing bowler is a mix of everything one seeks in a fast bowler. He seams, swings, reverses and does all this at more than a decent pace. That is an awful lot of skills in one package. And this has ultimately led him to 500 Test wickets.
- Mark Vermeulen, Zimbabwe
- MS Dhoni, India
- Jacques Kallis, South Africa
- Graeme Smith, South Africa
- Peter Siddle, Australia
- Lahiru Thirimanne, Sri Lanka
- Peter Fulton, New Zealand
- Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka
- Denesh Ramdin, West Indies (Moved past Ian Botham’s 383 Test wickets)
- Martin Guptill, New Zealand
- Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka
- Kraigg Brathwaite, West Indies
Only six bowlers have achieved this feat in Tests, of which three are spin bowlers, all of whom possess more than 600 wickets.
The two other fast bowlers, Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh, are hailed as legends of the game. But despite his terrific record, Anderson has been quite underrated, especially his record outside England heavily criticised. But the Lancashire seamer has carved out a name for himself in the big league and this feat should see him acclaimed as one of the best fast bowlers in Test cricket.
And he could well finish his Test career as the top wicket-taker among fast bowlers with McGrath just 63 wickets ahead. Anderson had revealed that he would play as long as he is fit enough which he says could even be 40.
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he had said. “I’m very fortunate to have the body I have. For a fast bowler, not much stress goes through my body – a lot less than a lot of other fast bowlers. It’s just a case of looking after myself. If I can keep fit, keep my speeds up, there’s no reason why not.”
If Anderson does play for a few more years, he would definitely end his glorious career as the best Test fast bowler purely on statistical terms. He has rarely bowled with better rhythm than during the past few months, where he tormented the South Africans before digging into the clueless West Indian batsmen. As the Ashes beckon later this year, Australia will need plans against Anderson or may well find themselves with no places to hide.
The outstanding, relentless bowler that he is, 99 more wickets to reach that elusive 600 wickets mark, which no fast bowler has ever scaled, may not be quite impossible.