FAREWELL JIMMY

A fast bowling Colossus who got better with age

Anderson became the first and only fast bowler to reach 700 Test wickets earlier this year.
Anderson became the first and only fast bowler to reach 700 Test wickets earlier this year. ©BCCI

James Anderson's debut season as an England Test cricketer - 2003 - was ironically the one in which Alec Stewart, England's then most-capped player (133) played his last Test. In July 2024, Anderson will bow out of Test cricket at Lord's with his 188th England cap, behind only Sachin Tendulkar's record of 200 Test appearances. Among fast bowlers, he is well clear of the next best - Stuart Broad (167) - shades the once record holder Courtney Walsh (132) by more than 50 appearances.

The three names separating Anderson and Stewart on England's list - Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, and Joe Root - all made their debut after Anderson made his and first two bid adieu before him.

Anderson, soon to turn 42, will have spent half his life as a Test cricketer. He is only the third cricketer, behind Sachin Tendulkar and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, to last as long having played at least a Test in each of the calendar years during their career.

He will retire as one of the just three bowlers in the coveted 700- wicket club in Tests and has a realistic shot at surpassing Shane Warne's tally of 708 in his final Test. He is also one of the three fast bowlers to scale the 500-wicket peak and is comfortably ahead of Stuart Broad's tally of 604. Anderson broke Ian Botham's long-standing record of most wickets for England in 2015 and went on to become the first English bowler to get to the 400 and 500 wicket milestone and later became the first seamer to reach the 600 and 700-wicket mark.

Anderson last represented England in white ball cricket during their catastrophic 2015 ODI World Cup campaign and retired as their leading wicket taker in the format with 269 scalps. His aggregate of 987 wickets across all International cricket is the third most for a bowler behind Muttiah Muralidaran's 1347 and Warne's 1001.

Most wickets in Test cricket

Player Mat Balls Wkts Avg SR 5-fers Best
M Muralidaran 133 44039 800 22.72 55.0 67 9/51
Shane Warne 145 40705 708 25.41 57.4 37 8/71
James Anderson 187 39877 700 26.52 56.9 32 7/42
Anil Kumble 132 40850 619 29.65 65.9 35 10/74
Stuart Broad 167 33698 604 27.68 55.7 20 8/15
Glenn McGrath 124 29248 563 21.64 51.9 29 8/24
Nathan Lyon 129 32761 530 30.28 61.8 24 8/50
Courtney Walsh 132 30019 519 24.44 57.8 22 7/37
R Ashwin 100 26166 516 23.75 50.7 36 7/59

The journey from fluffy-haired boy wonder to England's fast-bowling metronome

Anderson was rewarded with a Test cap against the touring Zimbabwe side in the summer of 2003 following a brilliant start to his ODI career in the winter of 2002/03 in Australia and the subsequent World Cup in South Africa. He hit the ground running taking a five-for at Lord's and another later in the season at Trent Bridge against South Africa - incidentally the two venues he would ended up picking the most wickets (119 & 73 respectively) at. Despite the great start to his career, things weren't too rosy for him as he missed the bus for the historic Ashes 2005 and remained in the periphery of the England team as the attempts to change his action to stay injury free affected his pace and rhythm. He featured only in 20 Tests out of 63 up until the end of 2007 and had just 62 wickets at 39.21 to show for his efforts. The consensus was that Anderson was someone who would produce unplayable spells, or rather balls, when conditions were his allies and be dreadful when they weren't. The worst end of it manifested itself in Kandy in December 2007 when Sanath Jayasuriya smashed him for six consecutive fours in an over.

Anderson made his Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord's in 2003.
Anderson made his Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord's in 2003. ©Getty

The Wellington Test of 2008 proved to be a watershed moment as England, trailing 0-1 in the series, replaced Matthew Hoggard with Anderson as their premier new ball bowler. It proved a seminal moment in English cricket history as it was the first time Anderson paired up with Broad, playing just his second Test, as they moved on from their victorious Ashes 2005 opening pair of Hoggard and Steve Harmison. Following a five-wicket haul in Wellington that turned the series in England's favour which they eventually bagged 2-1, Anderson picked up 34 wickets in seven Tests in the home summer of 2008 and never looked back. He was the leader of the bowling pack during England's golden generation under skipper Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower between 2009 and 2013, which included series wins in Australia in 2010/11 and in India in 2012/13, both of which saw critical contributions from Anderson.

Anderson's career progression

Period Mat Balls Wkts Avg SR 5-fers
May 2003 - Dec 2007 20 3891 62 39.21 62.8 3
Jan 2008 - Jan 2014 72 16459 281 28.79 58.6 12
Since April 2014 95 19527 357 22.54 54.7 17

Between the home summer of 2008 up until the 2013/14 tour of Australia, Anderson picked 273 wickets across 70 Tests at a respectable average of 28.60. He was splendid at home, scalping 166 wickets at 25.82 and useful away, chipping in with 107 wickets at 32.92. In a storied career like one Anderson has had, the crowning glory came in England's only away Ashes series win - 2010/11 - in the last 35 years. He topped the wickets chart with 24 scalps at 26.04 that included first innings four-wicket hauls in each of England's three innings wins on the tour. The cornerstone of his success in that series was a newly developed wobble seam delivery bowled on the fourth stump line, forcing Australian batters to negotiate the narrow channel of opportunity. Of his 26 wickets, 19 were caught by the wicketkeeper or in the slip cordon, most of them nicks off the outside edge. Anderson picked up 4/51 in Adelaide, but the best spell of the series came on Boxing Day, 2010 with the series evenly poised 1-1. He ripped out Australia's middle order, nicking them off to the wicketkeeper Matt Prior. The climax of the series saw him grabbing a seven-wicket match haul in Sydney that sealed England's 3-1 win. Two years later at Eden Gardens, his controlled burst of reverse swing proved decisive as England went 2-1 up with his victims including Tendulkar and Virat Kohli among others.

Anderson has had several exciting battles with the top players.
Anderson has had several exciting battles with the top players. ©Getty

The 0-5 whitewash in Ashes 2013/14 saw England's golden generation getting disbanded as many of the greats either faded away to the sunset or were on the last leg of their careers. One of the everlasting images form the 2014 English summer is that of Anderson on his haunches after battling it out for 55 balls without a run, fighting a Sri Lankan victory charge on the final session of fifth day only to be dismissed on the penultimate delivery of the Test. While Anderson found himself short of words at the post-match presentation that evening at Leeds, the summer marked a major inflection point in his career. In 95 Tests since the start of 2014 summer, Anderson picked up 357 wickets at 22.54. His numbers at home got even better - 21.76 for 221 wickets - but this phase of his career saw an exponential improvement in his away numbers. In 41 away Tests, Anderson bagged 136 wickets at 23.80 at an economy of 2.35. In the first half of his career, the only two countries outside England where Anderson averaged below 30 were India (29.81) and UAE (27.66). Come second half, he averaged under 30 in all countries barring India (30.72), the last three unproductive Tests earlier this year nudging that average up over the 30-mark.

Anderson's average in each country across two halves

Country Avg (2003-14) Avg (2014-24) Avg delta
Australia 38.44 26.40 12.04
England 27.34 21.76 5.58
India 29.81 30.72 -0.91
New Zealand 36.27 20.44 15.83
South Africa 38.72 30.00 8.72
Sri Lanka 40.72 21.57 19.15
UAE/Pakistan 27.66 16.71 10.95
West Indies 38.00 20.40 17.60

Anderson has taken 329 wickets in 90 Tests since turning 32 during the 2014 home season, a tally bettered only by Rangana Herath (363). Among fast bowlers, only Courtney Walsh (297) and Sir Richard Hadlee (252) have 200 or more wickets after turning 32. A further testament to Anderson ageing like fine wine is the fact he played 62 Tests after turning 35 - no other specialist bowler has even played 50 Tests from a similar stage. And he was good as ever in those 62 games bagging 220 wickets at 22.86 while sending down 12000+ deliveries.

Most wickets for seamers after turning 35

Player Mat Balls Wkts Avg SR 5-fers Best
J Anderson 62 12471 220 22.86 56.6 10 7/42
C Walsh 39 10168 180 21.61 56.4 9 6/61
R Hadlee 23 5662 116 21.39 48.8 11 6/49
G McGrath 18 4497 82 22.89 54.8 4 6/50
S Broad 19 3985 81 27.37 49.1 2 5/51
C Ambrose 18 4115 68 20.11 60.5 2 6/51

Learning new tricks to get better with age

To have played anywhere near the volume of Tests Anderson has played, one would not only need exceptional skills but also physical endurance and be mentally driven. It is a testament to his greatness that he has lasted as long as he has, while maintaining the high degree of standard almost throughout the entire duration of his career. Skill wise, the answer lies in the fact how he improved his bag of tricks with the old ball, simultaneously fine tuning his exceptional new ball abilities.

Note: The period of first 20 overs with a ball is considered new ball phase and the rest comes under the scope of old ball. For the second new ball, it is considered from the point it was taken in respective innings. The stats for the third new ball are discarded for this analysis.

Up until Ashes 2013/14 which constitutes the first 92 games of Anderson's career, he averaged 28.46 with the new ball and 32.73 with the old ball (first & second combined). In 95 matches since the 2014 home summer, those averages significantly improved to 21.73 and 23.49 respectively - 11 runs fewer per wicket with the new ball while the breakthroughs with the old ball came about nine runs cheaper. Another important aspect of his prowess with the old ball is the vastly improved control he brought to the table. He had an economy rate of 3.08 in the first phase of his career with the older ball which came down to 2.50 per over in the latter half.

 Anderson 1.0 vs 2.0
Anderson 1.0 vs 2.0 ©Cricbuzz

Anderson's numbers at home with both new and old ball have remained steady more or less thanks to the Dukes ball used in England's home Tests that retains hardness longer - compared to the Kookaburra and the SG balls used elsewhere - thereby keeping the bowlers stay in the contest for longer period. The notable change for Anderson has come in the exploits he has had with the old ball in away Tests. His away average until Ashes 2013/14 read 36.16, split between 31.00 with the new ball and 42.40 with the old . Since the 2014 season, the overall away average has improved to 24.02, with the new-old ball split being 21.76 and 27.60 respectively. His economy rate with the old ball in these matches improved from 3.21 in the first phase to 2.34 in the second, underlining his ability to stay in the game longer even when he is not among the wickets by either cutting out the easy runs or drying up runs to create opportunities at the other end.

 In away Tests
In away Tests ©

With the new ball, his numbers in the first half of his career for this phase is boosted by the significantly better numbers with second new ball, with which one often has a shot at the tailenders unlike the first new ball where he is always up against quality opening batters. The new ball average in the back half of his career is similar for both first and second new balls underlining his advanced new ball expertise.

Anderson's skill sets with the new ball in England are as good as anyone but a distinct feature of his new ball bowling (overs 1-20) across the two halves of his career is his superior discipline as his career progressed. In the first half of Anderson's career, he struck every 56.4 balls with the first new ball, largely bowling aggressive lengths, even trading off wickets for conceding risky runs (economy rate of 3.00). In the second half, he took almost the exact number of wickets with the first new ball at a superior average but took those wickets at a slightly longer interval of 60.4 balls between dismissals. Anderson 2.0 had better skills up his sleeve and greater discipline to wait longer to pounce on his prey rather than hunting them down aggressively thereby changing the risk-reward equation.

Anderson stats with the first new ball (overs 1-20) at home

Period Wkts Avg SR ER
May 2003 - Jan 2014 67 28.34 56.6 3.00
Since April 2014 68 23.53 60.4 2.34

Success in Asia

Anderson's dismissal of Kuldeep Yadav in Dharamsala as his 700th wicket in Test drew him level with his peer Dale Steyn for the most wickets taken by a visiting pacer in Asia. Coincidentally, it was Steyn to whom Anderson was often compared in debates about the best contemporary pacer in red-ball cricket. While Steyn was blessed with the gift of air speed and could blast out the opposition batting lineups on his day, Anderson's skills were more nuanced for the hostile conditions often prevalent for fast bowlers in the sub-continent. Anderson picked 92 wickets across 32 Tests in Asia at an impressive 27.51 and in the ten Tests England won in these parts of the world, he scalped 37 wickets at 19.89. At the twilight of his career, he played a big part on the final day to inflict a rare home defeat for India at Chennai in 2021 with a skillful exhibition of reverse swing bowling, backing up a six-wicket haul at the age of 39 in Galle just weeks before. The last big hurrah came in Rawalpindi in late 2022 where he orchestrated a win late on the fifth day with a four-wicket haul, drawing fuel from the every ounce of stamina left in the body.

 In the 2021 Chennai Test, Anderson produced a devastating display of reverse swing
In the 2021 Chennai Test, Anderson produced a devastating display of reverse swing ©BCCI

Like with his overall career, Anderson's late success in Asia was also mainly due to his better discipline with the new ball. Since 2014, Anderson averaged 18.38 with the first new ball in Asia (up from 28.93 till 2013) at a miserly economy rate of 1.99, down from 3.24 pre-2014.

Most wickets by visiting seamers in Asia

Player Mat Balls Wkts Avg SR 5-fers Best
D Steyn 22 3955 92 24.11 42.9 5 7/51
J Anderson 32 5858 92 27.51 63.6 2 6/40
C Walsh 17 3485 77 20.53 45.2 5 6/79
G McGrath 19 3951 72 23.02 54.8 1 5/66
M Marshall 19 3461 71 23.05 48.7 3 6/37
R Hadlee 13 2909 68 21.58 42.7 5 6/49
S Pollock 17 3411 60 23.18 56.8 2 6/78

Combination with Broad

The story of Anderson is not complete without a mention of his successful new-ball partnership with Broad. The two most-capped fast bowlers, the two most leading wicket takers among seamers also forged a successful pairing that carried England's attack for the best part of a decade and a half. The pair featured together in 138 matches and cumulatively bagged 1039 wickets between them - the most by any pair in the history of the format. They are also the only fast bowling pair to feature together in 100-plus Tests and only the duo of Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid appeared together in the same XI more frequently in the formats (146 Tests).

Most wickets by a pair in Tests

Pair Mat Wkts
J Anderson - S Broad 138 1039
S Warne - G McGrath 104 1001
M Muralidaran - C Vaas 95 895
C Ambrose - C Walsh 95 762
N Lyon - M Starc 84 671
W Akram - W Younis 61 559

Other nuggets from Anderson's illustrious career

39877 balls bowled by Anderson is the fourth-most by any bowler in Tests and the most by any fast bowler. About a third of these deliveries - 12471 (31.3%) - were bowled after Anderson turned 35, a testimony of his exceptional fitness at the twilight of his career.

119 wickets by Anderson at Lord's are the second most by a bowler at a single venue behind Muralidaran's 166 at Colombo SSC. His farewell Test will mark his 29th appearance at Lord's in England whites, drawing him level with Angelo Mathews (in Galle) for the most Tests played at a venue.

219 left-handed batters dismissed by Anderson in Tests - the only fast bowler to dismiss left handers 200-plus times and only the second bowler after R Ashwin (260). Since the 2014 home season, Anderson accounted for 109 southpaws at 24.09 compared to 110 at 32.16 up until then.

194 opening batters dismissed by Anderson is the most by a bowler in Tests, 39 clear of the second placed Glenn McGrath. 33 of these batters were dismissed before they troubled the scorers, which is also the most by any bowler with McGrath again at second position with 26.

The Anderson story is incomplete without a mention of Stuart Broad
The Anderson story is incomplete without a mention of Stuart Broad ©Getty

115 Overall, Anderson has dismissed 115 batters without scoring, which happens to be the most for a bowler. Only three other bowlers have more than 100 of their victims dismissed before opening their account - McGrath has 104 followed by 102 each for Muralidaran and Warne.

3 Oppositions against whom Anderson has bagged 100-plus wickets - 149 against India, 117 against Australia, and 103 against South Africa. He is the only fast bowler with 100-plus wickets against three (or more) oppositions and one among the three overall, after Muralidaran and Warne. His 149 wickets against India are the second most outside of Ashes contests after Ambrose's 164 scalps in Tests between West Indies and England.

12 Instances of Anderson dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara - his most frequent victim. He got the better of Tendulkar nine times averaging 23.11 while he also had the wood over the likes of Jacques Kallis (seven dismissals, average 25.29) and Kumar Sangakkara (seven dismissals, average 28.14). Amongst the modern 'Fab four', he got the better of Kane Williamson the most - nine times at an average of 18.33. Steven Smith and Kohli played him better, averaging 59.88 and 43.57 for eight and seven outs respectively. Five batters averaged 100-plus against Anderson (minimum 100 balls faced), with the best being Hashim Amla who scored 398 runs off him getting out just twice.

Anderson's batting often invokes his "Burnley Lara" nickname in the cricketing fraternity, and he has some interesting statistical records associated with his name on the batting front.

81 against India in Trent Bridge in 2014 - Anderson's only half century in his entire first class career. It happens to be the third-highest by a No.11 batter in Tests behind 98 by Ashton Agar and 95 by Tino Best. Anderson shared a 10th wicket stand of 198 with Joe Root during the course of that knock - the highest 10th wicket partnership in the history of Test cricket.

55 balls faced by Anderson against Sri Lanka at Leeds in 2014 is the second-most by a batter in an innings in Tests without getting off the mark. The only instance in front of him is New Zealander Geoff Allott's 77-ball duck against South Africa in Auckland in 1999.

4 Instances of Anderson bagging a pair in Tests - second-most and shared with five others (BS Chandrasekhar, Walsh, Muralidaran, Marvan Atapattu and Mervyn Dillon) and only behind Chris Martin's seven. Anderson has been dismissed for a duck 34 times in his career, the joint fifth-most ever. Remarkably, Anderson was not dismissed for a duck up until his 55th innings - one of the seven players not to fall for duck in their first 50 innings of the career and he is the only specialist bowler of the seven.

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