FAREWELL

The fact is that I've to deal with and accept retirement - James Anderson

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Anderson made his Test debut under Nasser Hussain in 2003 at Lord's - the venue where he'll end his Test career
Anderson made his Test debut under Nasser Hussain in 2003 at Lord's - the venue where he'll end his Test career © AFP

James Anderson believes he's bowling as well as he ever has and that he "could still do a job" as he prepares to wind down his stellar international career at Lord's with his 188th and final Test match this week. The legendary fast bowler, who will turn 42 at the end of this month, goes into the bookending game against West Indies with the best individual bowling figures of this County Championship season - returning 7 for 35 in the first innings for Lancashire against Nottinghamshire in his first competitive game since the Dharamsala Test in early March.

"I still feel as fit as I ever have, like I'm bowling as well as I ever have. I still think I could do a job," Anderson said on Monday (July 8), two days out from the Test. "But at the same time I understand that it has to end at some point. The fact that it now is just something I've got to deal with and accept."

When asked if he could have continued playing, Anderson added: "It's difficult to say. I've not really got a choice."

The veteran bowler, who made his Test debut under Nasser Hussain in 2003 at this very venue, was nudged into bringing the curtains down following an appraisal meeting in a Manchester hotel with Ben Stokes (Test captain), Brendon McCullum (coach) and Rob Key (ECB's Director of Cricket) in May. In that meeting, the trio informed Anderson that they planned on picking fast bowlers that are likely to feature in the 2025 winter Ashes tour of Australia. Before that meeting, Anderson said he hadn't thought about how he'd end his England career.

"I wouldn't say it was a surprise, because when the three big dogs invited me to a hotel in Manchester for a chat I didn't think it was just a normal appraisal," he said. "I had a suspicion that that was going to be the case. I think they were surprised at how calm I was and I was probably surprised at my reaction. I wasn't overly emotional or angry about it.

"I saw their point of view and appreciated them taking the time to lay it out for me. Since then I've come to terms with it and made peace with that decision. I'm just looking forward to one more game and then see what's ahead."

After this farewell Test, Anderson will move into a mentoring role for the remainder of the summer before deciding if he wants to continue playing first class cricket for Lancashire or transition into a more permanent coaching role on the winter tours of Pakistan and New Zealand. "That's way too far ahead," he said. "We'll just see how these next two months go. I think they want to see if I'm any good at it, whether I fit into what they want from a coaching group, and then I'll see if I enjoy it.

"Coming off the back of seven-for last week, obviously I feel like I'm still bowling as well as I ever have. If I feel like I can still contribute to Lancashire or they need me, then I'm sure that's a conversation we'll have in the next few months."

England's bowling line-up will be neck deep in transition by the end of the series. Surrey's Gus Atkinson will be in line for a Test debut at Lord's while Nottinghamshire's Dillon Pennington could also get a look-in at some point. Before Anderson, their record wicket-taker, England also lost Stuart Broad to retirement in the previous home Test just about a year ago. Broad enjoyed a dreamy farewell at The Oval, hitting his last ball for six and claiming a wicket with his final delivery in an Ashes Test win. That exit, however, is a lot to "live up to", reckoned Anderson.

"I'm trying not to think too much about the game itself yet, or how I'd feel about it," he said. "The big thing for me this week is wanting to play well, bowl well and get a win. I'm sure the emotions during the week will change, but right now that's what I'm trying to focus on to stop myself crying."

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