Evergreen James Anderson Answers Critics Emphatically

Tenacity, perseverance, skill and immense levels of fitness have helped Anderson achieve dizzying heights.

4 min read
James Anderson of England celebrates the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane (Vice captain) of India during day five of the first test match between India and England.

In Chennai, in the fourth innings against India, James Anderson, 38-years-old with more than 150 Tests to his name, did not take then new ball for the first time in 12 years. While Jack Leach picked off the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara, Anderson waited, before swinging the tie emphatically in England’s favour, if ever there were any doubts at all, yet again rising to the occasion to lead the way for the Three Lions.

Anderson toiled for years and is only getting better with age. His spell in Chennai was so good that it left the on-field umpire Nitin Menon in awe too.

Perfectly bowled reverse swinging in-duckers undid first Shubman Gill and then Ajinkya Rahane, who had just survived an LBW appeal of a carbon copy. The stumps went cartwheeling on both occasions, leaving fast bowling romantics hypnotised, batsmen surprised and Joe Root recalling Andrew Flintoff’s famous battle in the 2005 Ashes against Ricky Ponting and Justin Langer.

“.. It was nice to see his stumps go cartwheeling – that doesn’t happen very often at my age,” Anderson said after the match.

A match-haul of five wickets in Chennai means, Anderson now has a total of 611 wickets in Test cricket at an average of 26.49 and continues to march on as the most successful pacer in the history of the game.

The veteran pacer has been at his absolute best in 2021. In 58.5 overs bowled against Sri Lanka and India, he has taken 11 wickets at an average of 9.90 and an economy rate of 1.85!

His showing in Sri Lanka and India was also, once more, a befitting response to any thoughts or doubts about the Lancashire pacer’s abilities outside England, often wrongfully criticised.

In Asia (including Tests in UAE against Pakistan), Anderson, who debuted at Lord’s in 2003, has played 24 Tests and picked 71 wickets with an average of 27.94 and an economy rate of 2.60. His best figures are 40/6 came in the only Test he played in Sri Lanka before coming to India.

And a look at his overall figures in comparison, 158 Tests and 611 wickets at an average of 26.49, tell you there isn’t really a major downturn in fortunes for Anderson. At home, he’s played 89 Tests and taken 384 wickets at an average of 23.83 and an economy rate of 2.84.

When placed in comparison with fast bowlers over the years in Tests, Anderson is miles ahead of his contemporaries in Asia. While Anderson is the fourth most successful pacer in the history of Tests in Asia (Dale Steyn, Courtney Walsh and Glenn McGrath ahead of him), he along with Stuart Broad and Trent Boult are the only active bowlers in the top 25 most successful pacers in the continent.

Steyn stands at the top of the list with 92 scalps while Walsh (77) and McGrath (72) are surely going to be overtaken by Anderson before he departs India, barring any untoward incidents.

Since the beginning of 2014, only Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult and Ben Stokes are the non-Asian fast bowlers to have more wickets than Anderson in Asia, while non have a better average or economy rate than the veteran in the top 7.

And since his debut against Zimbabwe, only Steyn can boast of a better record in Asia than Anderson. Only 4 times has Anderson gone wicket-less in a Test in Asia, Mumbai and Mohali (2016), Colombo (2003) and Pallekele (2018).

James Anderson is two wickets away from 900 international wickets. 
James Anderson is two wickets away from 900 international wickets. 
(Photo: PTI)

Tenacity, perseverance, skill and immense levels of fitness have helped Anderson achieve such dizzying heights. And in that seven-over burst, where he picked up three wickets (Gill, Rahane and Rishabh Pant) for eight runs knocked the wind out of India’s sails in the port city of Chennai.

The spell, quite literally, contained a lifetime’s expertise, is now like second nature and questions about his abilities is like water off a duck’s back to Anderson.

Amongst the only surprising things is that Anderson has never taken a five-wicket haul in India. Will he tick off that box as well in what’s likely to be his final tour of India?

Will the critics or the idea, insulting to his dedication and hard work, that Anderson cannot deliver outside England finally rest?

He’s two wickets away from 900 international, a first for an English cricketer and he’s raring to go!

“.. I'm very aware we've got four Test matches in quick succession here and there will be a need to rest and rotate. I'm not presuming anything. I'll try and rest and recover from this game as best I can in the next day or two and get back in the nets and try and put my name in the hat for Saturday," said Anderson.

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