England in New Zealand 2012-13 February 19, 2013

More records in sight for Anderson

With the wicket of BJ Watling in Hamiton, James Anderson became England's leading international wicket-taker and the 'dream' is still sinking in

When James Anderson last played in New Zealand during the 2008 tour any talk of him becoming a record-breaking England bowler would have sounded extremely far-fetched. After a sparkling start to his international career in 2003 injury, lack of form and some misguided attempts to change his action had repeatedly interrupted his career.

His Test match average stood at its highest point - 39.20 - and he had just come off the back of a one-day series against New Zealand where his four wickets cost 67.50 with an economy rate of over seven an over. Then, in Wellington, Matthew Hoggard's Test career was ended with his omission and Anderson took his place.

Five years later and he is part of a constant debate of where he sits among the world's leading pace bowlers. The consensus is that Dale Steyn pips him - and watching Steyn on recent form does not leave much room for debate - but to be vying for second spot behind him is certainly a notable place to sit.

On Sunday, in Hamilton, with his sixth ball in competitive cricket since the Test series against India before Christmas, Anderson became England's leading international wicket-taker when he bowled BJ Watling with a wonderful inswinger - a worthy delivery to claim a record. It is a slightly contrived landmark, adding together all three formats, none the less one that highlights Anderson's rise to one of England's finest bowlers even if globally he remains some way down the list.

"It's a huge honour," Anderson said. "Overtaking someone like Ian Botham is a massive achievement for me, and I'm very proud of it. It is hard to believe, and I also still can't believe I've been playing for 10 years.

"It's still all a bit of a dream come true, and I'm delighted to be still here playing - and I hope I can keep taking wickets for years to come."

Anderson's wickets have been more evenly spread than Botham's between the two traditional formats - currently 288 in Tests and 223 in ODIs, with Twenty20 chipping in 18 - a sign of the volume of one-day cricket played during Anderson's career and that his Test career went through that reasonably prolonged dip from 2004-2007.

Anderson has Botham's English Test record of 383 wickets in his sights. He needs another 96 to overtake the mark. There is a strong chance of him claiming the 12 he requires for 300 during the forthcoming series against New Zealand. If he averages four wickets per Test (marginally higher than his current ratio of 3.74, although that has risen to 3.96 since his recall in 2008) during the 22 matches scheduled from now until August 2014 he will be very close.

"If I stay fit for long enough and play for long enough, I think I can," was Anderson's simple response. "I hope then the wickets will just tot up and I can look back at them fondly at the end of my career."

Of more immediate importance for Anderson is leading the attack in the remaining two one-day internationals and shaking off his winter rust ahead of the Test matches. It was a testament to Anderson's skill that his first over in Hamilton, which brought the wicket of Watling, was of such high quality after a two-month lay-off and no warm-up matches.

But his lack of recent bowling did show towards the end of the match as he dropped too short in his ninth over and Brendon McCullum latched onto him and carried his team to victory.

"Obviously there are things we need to work on," he admitted. "I thought we bowled well up front but were then probably a little bit rusty when it came down to the later overs. So that's something we're trying to brush up on. It's tricky not having that match practice before a series. But we have to cope with that these days."

Anderson's break during the India one-day series was part of the rotation system England are now using in an attempt to keep key players fresh ahead of a hectic 2013 and beyond. So far, unlike Australia, England's management have largely kept rotation as part of the limited-overs formats although have used it occasionally in Tests.

Anderson missed the 2010 tour of Bangladesh (along with Andrew Strauss) then Stuart Broad was given downtime for the return visit later that year with both decisions taken with a view to the 2010-11 Ashes. It worked for Anderson, who claimed 24 wickets down under, but less so for Broad who has battled frequent injuries over the last two years. Anderson and Broad were also pulled out of the final Test against West Indies, at Edgbaston, last year after England had wrapped up the series.

With five matches across two series against New Zealand, followed by the Champions Trophy and back-to-back Ashes it is possible that someone, most likely one of the fast bowlers, could be rested again during the home visit of New Zealand.

"I think it's one way to prolong your career," Anderson said. "The rotation system has worked pretty well so far; the players have been pretty happy with it. Obviously you want to play as much cricket as you can, because you're not going to play forever. But the management, who make these decisions, have got our best interests at heart."

But with records in sight, and Anderson in the prime of his career, his phlegmatic attitude towards watching others claim wickets for England, particularly with the red ball, will be tested.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • James on February 22, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    @Meety - I am close to giving up on you but if you really think Mitchell Johnson bowled well in the 2009 ashes i guess i need to give you a hand. Darren Gough was the leader of a poor England bowling attack in the 1990s and performed a similar role to Peter Siddle. No England fan would have dared compare him to one of the greats of that era, which is what you appear to be doing with Siddle. Seriously mate the aussie fast bowlers have not been a strength of the team over the past 5 years and the test results of Australia back up that argument. Unfortunately your not going to acknowledge it so i guess there is no where left to go on this 1. Siddle is not in the same league as Anderson and neither is Johnson or Hilfenhaus, take off your canary yellow glasses and see the bigger picture.

  • Andrew on February 21, 2013, 22:59 GMT

    @mikey76 on (February 21, 2013, 16:15 GMT) - the fact is Anderson does NOT bowl leg cutters at 145kph, Steyn does & that = skill NOT physics! The ability to bowl faster & maintain skill & accuracy is a skill. For whatever reason, Anderson is only able to professionally do his thing at around 130kph, whilst Steyn does it at 140+kph. Other bowlers can bowl faster than that (Finn is just one example), but they do not have the accuracy of Steyn. @Green_How on (February 21, 2013, 8:02 GMT) - "...but did I really say that?" actually you said "...has claimed a lot of wickets due to the limited quality of other bowlers in the Aussie ranks..." Then you say "... is the inconsistency and a lack of skill of their fast bowlers..." The FACT is, MJ, Siddle & Hilfenhaas outbowled all of England's bowlers in the 2009 Ashes. A large chunk of non-bias/partisan fans acknowledge that Ozzy pace bowling is the strength of the team. So remind me what your point is again?

  • michael on February 21, 2013, 20:10 GMT

    Harmony111. You like other certain people on this thread are bound up in statistics. 12 wickets in 4 tests may not sound spectacular, but it's the way he bowled throughout the series that counts. He hardly bowled a bad ball, had virtually no back up from the other seamers thanks to England's bizarre selection policy on the tour and some of the deliveries he produced on benign surfaces were nothing but hugely impressive. He bowled beautifully in the UAE last winter too without the big rewards. Hopefully this test series against NZ will see him fill his boots, he is bowling very well right now.

  • Harmon on February 21, 2013, 16:35 GMT

    @The_bowlers_Holding: Now you are saying he is at least better than Indian fast bowlers who are seen as poor even by the most optimistic Ind fans. Earlier JA was being compared to Steyn. Nice jumping around from one extreme to the other dear.

    @Front-Foot-Lunge: I give you hard facts and yet you ignore them and start talking as if JA did something spectacular in the recent India tour. From JA's performance you then moved on to your team's performance as a whole cos you really had not much to say for JA. Is that how you do it all the time? JA is great cos Eng did well? Swann is great cos Cook got runs? Is that how you see it? If you are content with JA's performance in India then it really proves what qualifies as quality for you. 12 wickets in 4 tests is about par, may be 2-3 wickets less than par yet for you that is enough proof of JA's class !!!

  • michael on February 21, 2013, 16:15 GMT

    @meety. The point I was making was that if Anderson bowled at 92mph and not 85-86 he would have a lot more wickets in his locker. Batsmen have less time to adjust to the swinging ball when it's coming at them a yard quicker! I know that's hard to understand for you because you obviously spend every waking minute in Wisdens almanac quoting stats from 1968. You obviously need to get some fresh air. And the Warne comparison is a joke, he was a great bowler and a leg spinner! Im pretty sure if Sydney Barnes bowled 92mph kicking leg cutters he would have had even more wickets, but obviously in Meety world that wouldnt happen!

  • michael on February 21, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    CricJ. While I admire your enthusiasm for Jimmy, to say he is one of the top 3 English bowlers of all time is slightly ridiculous. Off the top of my head Fred Trueman, Sydney Barnes and Alec Bedser would fill a top 3 on most days whilst guys like Botham, Willis, Snow and Statham would probably come ahead of him, and thats not mentioning spinners. He is certainly the best bowler along with Flintoff of the last 10 years, he may become one of the elite in the years to come but he needs to bring his avg down below 30.

  • Owen on February 21, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    The thing I like about Jimmy, is that he has learnt his limitations over the years. Give him a new ball and swinging conditions and he can be as good as anyone - Steyn included. However when the ball is not swinging he isn't nearly as dangerous (this is what makes Steyn better, because his pace can get him wickets no matter the conditions), and instead of still trying to attack, he will drag his length back a bit and play a more containing role. It isn't just his bowling which has endeared him to the England fans; his duckless streak showed his fighting qualities as a batsman, his fielding, catching in particular, was some of the best you could hope for from a quickie, and the way he has mentored some of the up and coming bowlers over the years has been brilliant. An honest servant of the sport.

  • Harmon on February 21, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    @cric_J: Your reply completely missed the point. I did not talk of one thing there, I talked of two things. 1. JA's record overall in India/Asia and 2. JA's hauls. You chose to talk only about the latter. In a comment that went unpublished, I had said that JA did well in only 1 test in the last tour of India - Kolkata Test. That's all. And on the basis of ONE test JA has proven himself in subcontinent when his overall record is still less than avg? It only shows how desperate some ppl are and really how avg a bowler JA is that ppl are talking of his 14 tests 42 wickets as proof of his ability. Whether you are Indian or not is not relevant. There are a few among us like you whose heart has been misplaced. Really? 14 tests, 42 wickets, good performance in just 1 test match (make it 2 for that 5 wicket haul) and you think JA has proven himself in subcontinent?

    Mind you I am NOT saying JA is a poor bowler. He is very good in Eng for sure but has not done enough in here. That's the point.

  • shashwata on February 21, 2013, 10:08 GMT

    I totally agree with @front_foot_lunge.Have followed Jimmy right from 2003 and thus know very well how far he has come since.Relly incredible and commendable

  • shashwata on February 21, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    Looks like Jimmy is going to be on a mission to break alot of English bowling records in the next 2 years.He has already got this one.Next would be crossing Gough's best of 234 in ODIs.That should come about soon. and then the big one ofcourse, Beefy's 383 in tests. Since England have 15 tests scheduled for this year, I think Jimmy will certainly cross Underwood,Truman and Willis by the end of the year.That would need only 38 more wickets and bring to rhe second position.And then by 2014, he should get ahead of Beefy.And if he stays fit he could well cross the 450 wicket mark in tests.Whatever some people may say, he definitely is one of the top 3 English bowlers of alltime,atleast for me.

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