England v New Zealand, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 2nd day May 17, 2013

From swing specialist to all-weather champion

When James Anderson started out he needed favourable conditions to perform; now, he can be expected to succeed no matter what the conditions

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.

A comparison England's bowlers in the 300-wicket club
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
* Stats at the end of the Test in which they reached 300 wickets.

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.

James Anderson's Test career
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
37 153 26.12 57.1 5/ 1
Career 81 301 30.41 58.9 12/ 1

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.

James Anderson, home and away in Tests
  Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/10WM
Home 45 185 27.42 54.2 9/ 1
Away (incl neutral) 36 116 35.19 66.3 3/ 0
James Anderson in away Tests (including neutral venues)
  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.

Anderson, v right- and left-handers in Tests till Dec 2009
  Wickets Average Econ rate
Right-handers 103 31.79 3.40
Left-handers 45 41.88 3.51
Anderson v right- and left-handers in Tests since Jan 2010
  Wickets Average Econ rate
Right-handers 100 28.19 2.86
Left-handers 53 22.22 2.48

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.

Batsmen that Anderson has dismissed most often in Tests
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average
Sachin Tendulkar 208 350 9 23.11
Jacques Kallis 177 419 7 25.28
Mark Boucher 161 273 6 26.83
Michael Clarke 153 255 6 25.50
Kumar Sangakkara 147 241 6 24.50
Graeme Smith 411 701 6 68.50

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jacob on May 19, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    @Lliam Flynn You raise a fair few points but Optic's comment outweighs yours...Not to mention, Jimmy made his debut since 2003! He's not exactly a youngin' anymore and has had a variety of injuries and misguidance by bowling coaches. Let's compare the stats again when the three bowlers you have mentioned have gone through roughly the same tours and roughly at the same age, then! We'll see if these bowlers are deservedly better than Jimmy. :)

  • Mark on May 18, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    Actualy Vaas had a poor record in England, but he warrants to be called a good fast medium bowler just as Jimmy does. I repeat you don't have to have a good average in every single country to be classed as a ver good bowler. Indeed Murali's average in Oz was very poor but I still class him as an all time great. BTW Jimmys bowling average in India was even better before the last tour (based on games in 2006 and 2008). Why is it that India were a poor teak when we beat them in the winter but yet they are still beating everyone else at home?

  • GARY on May 18, 2013, 14:39 GMT

    @ Lliam Flynn Well all that does is show you how stats don't tell you everything you need to know when comparing bowlers. Anderson has played 3 Asian tours this past 18 months or so. Philander has only bowled in friendly conditions, lets see what he does after 3 sub continent tours. Pattinson has bowled mainly in home conditions taking 30 of his 40 wickets there, hardly a comparison especially as he's only played 10 tests. Ryan Harris is a good bowler but he's hardly played and again hasn't played anything like the conditions Anderson has or the test, 37 to 12. I suppose what my point is is that what you've typed doesn't really tell us anything, does it.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2013, 14:14 GMT

    I don't understand how anyone with an average over 30 can be considered a champion, no matter how many wickets they take.

  • Patdabac on May 18, 2013, 13:23 GMT

    @markatnotts: Some of the comments below have mentioned that. Oh my god no way, really vs the same Indian team that lost 8-0 to England and Australia. Yes you're right his average in India is 0.4 runs lower that his career average, but thats probably because he did well in the last tour vs a very poor Indian line up. It's a good achievement in Test cricket, thats true but to be a good fast bowler you have to perform in every format of cricket and in all parts of the world. If you look at the other top fast medium bowlers to play test cricket, you have players like McGrath, Dev, Pollock, Botham, Vaas ect.. Jimmy doesn't fit in that same category yet does he?

  • siddhartha on May 18, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    Definitely the most improved player of this decade.Anderson is one of the present two bowlers who can perform consistently in any surface. The other being Dale Steyn.Philander still has lot to prove.He is yet to bowl on subcontinent.If Anderson stays fit he will definitely end with 500+ wickets in test cricket.It is almost confirmed that Steyn will end his career as a legend while Jimmy will finish as the one of the greatest swing bowler of modern times.

  • j on May 18, 2013, 9:55 GMT

    A long list of achievements and overcoming his critics is what everyone knows Anderson for these days. "He can't bowl on flat decks" (remember that one, I know it was so long ago) used to be the criticism. As everyone remembers, he sure turned that around, going to flat pitches all over the world where his variations and skill would result in a suspiciously prolonged period of absence for his sharpest critics, and a begrudging acceptance by the milder ones, as James Anderson showed just what a masterful flat deck/green-top specialist he is. What a last few years for Jimmy, he's proved better than everyone bar Steyn for years, and even his critics must tire of being proved wrong time and again. Not only is he the facilitator of many Ashes' horrors and nightmares for Aussie fans, he is a glorious jewel in the crown for English fans.

  • Mark on May 18, 2013, 9:26 GMT

    @ Patdabac. Who said he was the best fast bowler in the world? I can't see anyone here saying that! To be a good bowler you don't have to have a good average everywhere you play either. Mind you I heard that his bowling average in India is less than his career average. Quite an achievement for a fast medium swing bowler.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    My early memories of Jimmy is his unbelievable spell in Cape town in 2003 WC against Pakistan where conditions suited him and he was just in a different league, Few years later I saw him whacked like a B rated club bowler to all parts of Karachi by same Pakistan team confirming that Cape town was just a one off. But since then the guy has improved heaps, he will never be a match winner on his own like Steyn or other quality fast bowlers of the past but will go down as a decent bowler in history.