Scene 1 – The beginning
It was the English summer of 2003, the Zimbabwe team was touring England and amidst high political tension between England and Zimbabwe at Lords, a 20-year-old fresh faced young pace bowler from Lancashire, who had a sensational year with the national one day team, was making his much-awaited debut. The youngster then went on to take his first five wicket haul, wrecking an already struggling Zimbabwe team.
Scene 2 – England vs Pakistan, World Cup Match 2003
James Anderson bowls a full swinging cracker which breaches Yousuf Youhana’s defence to castle his furniture, a new star is born!
Scene 3 – England vs New Zealand, Wellington Test Match 2008
The fantastic duo of Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison seem to be nearing the end of their prestigious England careers and after a humiliation at Hamilton, England indeed opts for two new youngsters – James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Anderson destroys New Zealand at Basin Reserve picking seven wickets in a Test Match including a brilliant display of swing bowling in the first Innings, picking 5-73. The Test marks the end of an era and the beginning of the partnership of what would later go on to become the legendary pair of Anderson and Broad in English pace arsenal.
Scene 4 – Destroying India
India lost a Test Series at home to England for the first time in almost three decades. When Mahendra Singh Dhoni is asked the reason for the disgraceful loss, he promptly responds – “James Anderson was the only difference between both sides”. This is evidence of how the teenage boy from Lancashire became a force to be reckoned with.
A special talent
When James Anderson made his debut way back in 2002, one could immediately sense there was something special about him. With his youthful face, stylish spikes and a charming smile; he also seemed to have the ability to knock the socks off veteran batsmen with stunners. It looked as though England had found a treasure but his inconsistency is what pegged him from becoming a regular feature in the team.
England had a quality attack troop which included Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff, leaving little room for Anderson. The Lancashire native remained on the fringes for the first five years in the Test team, making sporadic appearances as the third seamer. From May 2003 – March 2008, Anderson played 20 Tests and took 62 wickets at an average of almost 40 (39.20) which unmistakably showed that his performance was sub par.
It was the 2007/08 New Zealand tour that proved to be the breakthrough moment in his career and embarked the commencement of the Broad and Anderson era. They soon became one of the finest fast bowling pairs of all time. On the tour, Anderson had a horrible one day outing picking only four Wickets in five matches at an average of 67.50.
To pick up some form, he played for the Auckland team which was robbed of its stars due to ICL bans. After England was destroyed in the first Test, he was drafted to the team and grabbed this golden chance with both hands taking England to a series leveling win. Two months later in May 2008 at Trent Bridge, he demolished New Zealand with high-quality swing bowling.
The figures of 7-43 stamped his role as the leader of the English attack, a role he was touted to take on once he burst onto the scene in 2002. The tables turned as he found his groove in Test Cricket. In 2008 he took 46 wickets at an average of 29.84 and led the English attack in spite of devastating losses against South Africa and India.
While he was adept at taking wickets, his record outside England was nothing fascinating. The big test came at the 2010/11 Ashes where Anderson led the attack with 24 wickets in five tests at 26.04. England won their first Ashes in Australia in 25 years, and to date remains the only series win in Australia in the last 31 years.
A year later, when England became the No. 1 team in World cricket, Anderson’s contribution was widely recognised. From 2010/11, he took 92 Wickets in 19 Tests at a beguiling average of 23.68. In 2012, England won the Test Series in India after 28 years and Anderson found the reverse swing that distressed Indian batsmen throughout the series.
On surfaces which were turning square with little aid to pacers, he was the standout difference between the two sides picking up 12 wickets in four tests in the series at an impressive average of 30.25. The series garnered him worldwide appreciation, and he was hailed as the master of all conditions.
In 2013, at Trent bridge, he took 10 wickets as England beat Australia in a whodunit. It was around this time that the comparison between South Africa’s Dale Steyn and Anderson surfaced. The million-dollar question was ‘Who was the King of Pace attack in international cricket?’ While the contest was lopsided in Steyn’s favour, Anderson’s fitness kept him in the running. In 2014, against India, in spite of the controversies that almost tore the two sides, he was at his lethal best taking 25 wickets in the series which saw England win by 3-1.
Conserving for the Test arena
After the 2015 World Cup, England started conserving him for Test Cricket. By the end of 2015, years of nonstop cricket took a heavy toll on his body. Anderson’s age caught up with him and the veteran had suffered multiple injuries. The next 12 months saw him missing a number of Tests but his prominence never diminished.
When Anderson returned in the English summer, he ruined the Sri Lankans. When the English were bulldozed by 4-0 against India, Anderson could play only three tests and looked but a pale shadow of himself. He was annihilated by the Indian batsmen.
Returning against South Africa, a Series in which he turned 35, Anderson had once again proven himself a class apart by picking up 20 wickets at an astounding average of 14. At the time of writing, he was weaving his magic at Leeds and leaving the West Indian batsmen guessing as to which way he’d swing it. He now stands tall and proud at 497, only 3 short to become only the third pace man ever to hit the 500 Test Wicket landmark.
For almost a decade, James Anderson has been one of the top bowlers in World cricket. While there has been a continuous comparison with some of his compatriots like Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson, others have started late and played lesser cricket. Anderson, on the other hand, has been playing for 15 continuous Summers.
It is a testament to the immense will power that he possesses. His critics often point fingers at how his record against Australia and South Africa is average. He also had average success in the Subcontinent barring a few exceptional Series. This is the reason a majority of the fans prefer Dale Steyn over him, as Steyn has a resounding record world over.
Moreover, Anderson is a moth to a flame when it comes to controversies which has also impacted his popularity. Steyn on the other hand is his polar opposite personality off the field.
Anderson might not be the perfect cricketer and neither is he the best that England has produced, but he is undoubtedly one among the best. With a magnificent milestone within reach, Anderson will go down in cricketing history as one of the most successful cricketers that international cricket has ever witnessed.
Anderson is a cricketer who has had 15 summers of international cricket, almost 800 international wickets and has run almost 38,000 times to revolutionize cricket for the country and to achieve such a breakthrough in the era of franchise cricket when most of his contemporaries have become sellouts. This speaks volumes about his integrity, dedication, and commitment as one of the greatest sons of English cricket.
James Anderson’s Record
Most Wickets in Test Cricket by Fast Bowler
Most Wickets for England in Test Cricket
Most Balls bowled in Test Cricket since May 2003
Balls per Test
- James Anderson has taken 269 ODI wickets for England – the most by an English Bowler in the 50 over game. Darren Gough is in second position with 234.
- He has played 128 Test matches – 3rd highest among pace bowlers after Courtney Walsh (132) and Kapil Dev (131).
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