From swing specialist to all-weather champion
All stats for Anderson updated till the end of the second day's play of the Lord's Test between England and New Zealand.
When he had Peter Fulton caught low at second slip by Graeme Swann, James Anderson became the fourth England bowler - after Ian Botham, Bob Willis, and Fred Trueman - and the 26th in all, to take 300 Test wickets. That journey took him almost exactly ten years, given that he made his Test debut on May 22, 2003, and over those ten years, Anderson has developed from a bowler who could be effective only in favourable conditions (often at home), into one who is an undoubted asset anywhere, no matter what the conditions.
Anderson began his career at Lord's, with figures of 5 for 73 against Zimbabwe, returns which are very similar to Ian Botham's debut performance of 5 for 74 against Australia in 1977. If Anderson stays fit, it's entirely conceivable that he'll overtake Botham's tally of 383 and become England's highest wicket-taker in Tests.
Among these four bowlers, Trueman reached the 300-wicket mark the fastest - in just 65 Tests - while Willis and Anderson have taken the longest. In terms of averages, Trueman is again clearly on top, while Anderson is the only one the four to average more than 27. Willis didn't take a single ten-wicket haul in his career, but that's also partly a reflection of the other bowlers who were playing for England at the time. Botham had an excellent strike rate in terms of wickets per Test till he got to 300 - he reached the mark in only 72 matches - but then took only 78 wickets in his last 30 Tests to finish on 383 from 102.
|Bowler||Tests for 300||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|Fred Trueman||65*||21.22||48.5||17/ 3|
|Ian Botham||72*||26.18||54.2||23/ 4|
|Bob Willis||81*||24.53||52.3||16/ 0|
|James Anderson||81||30.41||58.9||12/ 1|
Anderson's average is currently the worst among the four, but it's not unreasonable to expect it to get better, for he has been improving with every season over the last few years and is arguably at the peak of his powers. In his first four years in international cricket, Anderson's stats were pretty ordinary, with his average touching 40. It gradually improved into the early 30s in 2008 and 2009, and has, since the beginning of 2010, been an impressive 26. Over the next couple of years it might improve further, given that he has developed excellent control over his swing, and has learnt to bowl in all conditions.
|Period||Tests||Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|Till Dec 2007||20||62||39.20||62.7||3/ 0|
|2008 and 2009||24||86||31.72||59.2||4/ 0|
|Jan 2010 onwards
In the early years, Anderson was known as a bowler who could be extremely threatening when conditions were suitable for swing bowling, but didn't know how cope when it wasn't swinging. His first series in Australia was a fine illustration of his struggles overseas: in three Tests in the 2006-07 Ashes, he took five wickets at an average of 82.60.
His next tour of Australia, in 2010-11, was a fine illustration of how he developed his skills to become a potent bowler no matter what the conditions: in five Tests of a series dominated by England, Anderson took 24 wickets at 26, and was one of the same reasons for England's 3-1 triumph.
Over his entire career, Anderson's home stats are still better than his overseas numbers, but the difference has been reducing in the last few years. Before the 2010-11 Ashes series, Anderson's overseas average was almost 44; in 17 Tests since that Ashes tour, his overseas average has dropped to 28.17, though ironically, he's only taken one five-for during this period, compared to two before that. After that Ashes tour, Anderson also had three fine series in Asia, averaging 27.66 against Pakistan in the UAE, 21.77 in Sri Lanka, and 30.25 in India. Those are the kind of numbers he would have struggled to achieve in his early days in international cricket.
|Away (incl neutral)||36||116||35.19||66.3||3/ 0|
|Tests||Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|Before Nov 2010||19||52||43.84||74.4||2/ 0|
|Since Nov 2010||17||64||28.17||59.7||1/ 0|
One of his big improvements has also been his bowling to left-handers. In his first six years in international cricket, Anderson struggled against left-handers, averaging almost 42 runs per wicket against them. Since the beginning of 2010, though, his average against them has almost halved, while his average against right-handers has dropped only marginally.
From the table below, it's also clear that Anderson has targeted, and succeeded in dismissing, the top batsmen from opposition teams. The two players he has dismissed most often are Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis, arguably two of the best batsmen of his era. Both of them have only managed an average in the mid-20s against Anderson, while Michael Clarke and Kumar Sangakkara have struggled him as well. Like a true spearhead of a bowling attack, Anderson has been at his best against the best opposition batsmen.
He also has 171 wickets in matches that England have won, at an average of 23.60. He is third-highest among England bowlers in that list, and only six short of Trueman, whose 177 wickets in wins came at 17.30. If things go to plan, Anderson should be on top of that list before the summer is done.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter