Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Will James Anderson go down as an all-time England great after breaking record?

What a week it’s been for James Anderson. Not content with just celebrating his 100th test appearance for England against the West Indies, Jimmy broke Sir Ian Botham’s long-standing record to become the country’s leading wicket-taker in history.

He’d already claimed wicket numbers 382 and 383, and as he roared into bowl at Denesh Ramdin – in that typical, languid style of his – he did something that he’s been doing for England for over a decade now; pitching the ball up, swinging it away a little and inducing the edge from the batsmen.

Fittingly, it was his good friend Alistair Cook that pouched the catch at first slip, and the relief on Anderson’s face – rather than unbridled joy – was telling. He’s a family man, a quiet bloke off the pitch, and he’d found the increased pressure and media scrutiny something of an unwanted distraction.

So what now for the ‘Burnley Express’? Has he secured his place as an all-time great of the game? And will we one day be calling him Sir Jimmy?

Swing King

The rise and rise of James Anderson has coincided with a reversal in fortunes of English cricket. Once upon a time the Three Lions were very much in the doldrums, but the early 2000s saw a sea change – with the likes of Anderson, Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss all bursting onto the scene.

Fast forward a decade and a bit and Jimmy has secured his position as a legend of English – and world – cricket. He’s played a key part in three Ashes victories for his country, and was part of the side that in 2011 rose to the top of the ICC World Rankings.

But perhaps his greatest legacy is his unique reinvention of swing bowling. The great art had, by and large, died a death following the retirements of the Pakistan pair Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Those two were absolute masters of getting the ball to hoop around – and Anderson became their unlikely successor.

In typically English conditions, where the cloud is thick and the air is heavy, Anderson is at times completely unplayable.

Far From Finished

But Jimmy’s career is far from over. In fact, this summer could be one of his most important in an England shirt. There’s another Ashes battle on the horizon, and a tricky couple of dates against the fast-improving New Zealand to negotiate.

And of course there is the current test series in the Caribbean. Anderson will be hoping to add a few more scalps to his record when his turn to bowl comes, and he will know that his team mates Ballance and Bell must maintain their brilliant batting for second test.

If they can, then they will give Jimmy a great opportunity to put a bit of distance between himself and Sir Ian in the record books.

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