James Anderson closes on Glen McGrath’s 563 scalps to become Test cricket’s most successful seamer
England, very much like their cricketing rivals Australia have a rich tradition of producing world class fast bowlers. The inventors of the gentleman’s game have a long list of fast bowling greats who have etched their names in the golden annals of the sport.
Right from Fred Trueman, Jason Statham and Alec Bedser in the 50s and 60s to John Snow, Ian Botham and Bob Willis in the 70s and 80s , England have always been a force to reckon on home soil courtesy their lethal pace batteries which exploited the ideal swinging conditions on pacy and seaming wickets back home.
In the mid and late 90s, England had a pretty decent pace attack which comprised of Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick, Dominic Cork and Allan Mullally. At the turn of the century, a new crop of English pacers emerged to take on the glorious fast bowling legacy from their illustrious predecessors.
Among the many pacers who raised their hands to become England’s front-line seamer, Matthew Hoggard, James Anderson, Stephen Harmison and Andrew Flintoff looked to have that cutting edge to carve out a successful bowling career in the Test arena. Slowly but surely, Matthew Hoggard became the spearhead of the English bowling attack with Darren Gough bidding adieu to the game.
While Hoggard and Anderson were great exponents of swing bowling, Harmison and Flintoff were more of hit the deck bowlers and got to seam around the red cherry on pace conducive tracks.
Hoggard and Harmison served England with great distinction for nearly a decade and achieved lofty heights in their respective Test careers. However their bodies could not hold up to the grind of Test cricket for long. Fast bowling all rounder Flintoff who was deemed as the heir apparent to the great Ian Botham produced some magical spells and became the hero of England’s Ashes triumph in 2005.
Unfortunately, Flintoff’s big and burly frame was quite prone to injuries and he too faded away. One cannot forget Simon Jones and Ryan Sidebottom who impressed in short bursts but did not last for long. However once thing which remained constant as part of England’s seam attack was the presence of James Anderson who fine-tuned his bowling skills and developed into a menacing swing bowler.
Under the captaincy of Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, England became one of the top Test teams and James Anderson was their go to man for picking up wickets early in the innings. The Lancashire lad developed a potent seam attack with the tall and lanky Stuart Broad. If Anderson was the ‘King of swing’ , Broad extracted steep bounce to torment batsmen with his short of good length deliveries.
Over the past decade, the pair has become one of the deadliest seam bowling combination in Test cricket. Over the years, the likes of Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett, Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes, Tim Bresnan and Ben Stokes have played the third seamer’s role for England quite effectively and taken a lot of work load of Anderson’s shoulders.
James Anderson has been around in Test cricket for nearly a decade and a half. Given his bowling exploits in the longer format, he has been hailed as arguably the greatest swing bowler of his generation alongside South African seamer Dale Steyn.
While Steyn has a better strike rate courtesy his wider repertoire and ability to take wickets across all conditions, Anderson has been the fitter of the two and gone past the 500 Test wickets club, a milestone which Dale Steyn is yet to conquer.
James Anderson’s stellar Test career has overlapped two eras. When he started off his Test career way back in 2003, former greats like Glen McGrath, Brett Lee, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Chaminda Vaas, Shane Bond, Shoiab Akhtar, Lasith Malinga and Zaheer Khan who were hailed as the best seamers in the world.
The last five years have seen speed merchants like Dale Steyn, Mitchell Starc, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada, Mohammad Aamir and Bhuvneshwar Kumar achieve roaring success but Anderson has held his own place. When it comes to swinging the ball, Anderson is right up there with the best in business.
There was a time when Ian Botham’s 383 Test wickets for England looked unsurpassable but James Anderson went past that record to become his nation’s most successful Test bowler. In Test cricket’s history, only ten fast bowlers have taken 400 or more wickets. The elite club comprises of legends like Sir Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Shaun Pollock, Wasim Akram, Glen McGrath, Dale Steyn and Stuart Broad.
If we go a step further, only two seamers have gone past the herculean 500 Test wicket milestone. Anderson can proudly hold his head high as being one of them, the other two being Glen McGrath and Courtney Walsh.
Anderson is a natural athlete who has an effortless run-up and a classical side on action conducive to swing bowling. Anderson doesn’t get exaggerated swing like the way Waqar Younis did but swings the red cherry just enough from the right areas to trouble even the best batsmen in the world.
Besides his control of the new ball, Anderson is a clever exponent of the reverse swing. He has been supremely fit and remained injury free to ensure a long and successful career at the highest level.
Anderson’s remarkable Test record speaks volumes of his calibre as a top notch seamer. 557 Test scalps at an average of 26.85 with an impressive 55.7 strike rate is testimony of Jimmy’s prowess as a quality new ball bowler.
After 15 years of top flight cricket, James Anderson stands at the cusp of rewriting history. With 557 wickets in his kitty, Anderson is just seven wickets short of Aussie legend Glen McGrath’s record of 563 wickets, the most by a seamer in Test cricket. Given the way Jimmy bowled at the Lord’s Test against India, he stands a very good chance of scripting history in the ongoing Test series against Virat Kohli’s brigade.
James Anderson has stood the Test of time and been England’s strike weapon with the new ball. The 'Burnley Express' has certainly cemented his place as England’s greatest Test seamer and perhaps his accomplishments make him rub shoulders with the Titans of Test cricket.