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'No reason I can't play until 40' - Anderson

The rest of the world may want him to look back, but James Anderson is still looking forward.

Aged 35 and on the brink of joining an illustrious club - seamers to have claimed 500 Test wickets - Anderson is reluctant to dwell on the thought that his career may be coming to its conclusion and instead sees "no reason why I can't play until I'm 40".

And not just for Lancashire, either. A few months ahead of what most had presumed would be his final Ashes tour, Anderson says he has "wouldn't rule out" returning to Australia for the 2020-21 Ashes series and reckons he is a better bowler now than he has ever been.

"There's no reason I can't play until I'm 40," Anderson says. "I am now as skilful a bowler as I have ever been and consistent as well. I don't know whether I've peaked but I think I'm bowling as well as I have.

"I wouldn't rule out playing in the Ashes of 2020-21, either. I'm very fortunate to have the body I have. For a fast bowler, not much stress goes through my body. A lot less than a lot of other fast bowlers. It's just a case of looking after myself. If I can keep fit, keep my speeds up there's no reason why not.

"I played at Lancashire with Glen Chapple when he was 40 or 41 and he was as good as ever. I know it's slightly different in county cricket but for me, just playing Test cricket, not one-day cricket, there's no reason why I can't extend my career a little bit.

"To play another Test at Old Trafford would be amazing, too. It's my home ground, somewhere I was desperate to play when I growing up as a kid, so to play Tests here is an absolute dream. I'd love it if I was available for the Ashes Test here in 2019."

The figures, by and large, support that claim. This English season, at least, Anderson has claimed 30 wickets from six Tests at an average of 15.90 apiece. He has claimed two five-wicket hauls and is conceding runs at a rate of just 2.38 an over. And since the start of 2016, he has 71 wickets in 18 Tests at an average of 20.42. For a man who came into the season with some injury issues clouding his future, it is also impressive to have played six Tests in a relatively condensed period of time.

So while he admits there are some things he can no longer do - such as reaching 90mph with the ball - he feels he has compensated with other skills.

"All bowlers need a bit of nous and savvy and I think I've got that now," Anderson says. "In 2003, when I made my Test debut, I was still deciding whether to try and bowl as fast as I can or to try and swing the ball. In 2003 I was trying to bowl as fast as I can. But your body can't take that, as most fast bowlers in history will show. You need times when you are smarter than that and my skills have developed as a result.

"The hardest thing is mental side of it. Getting up every day and getting judged, putting yourself under pressure. But at the minute, because I am performing well and feel good and strong, I still enjoy the pressure and the scrutiny, trying to perform well and help us win games of cricket. That's what keeps me going and when that stops I probably will.

"In some ways it gets easier. Your body gets used to bowling. I bowled about 50 overs in Leeds and I was able to get out of the bed the next day pretty well. You learn what your limits are.

"I probably can't bowl at 90 mph now. That's a lot of effort. But I don't think that matters. You look at most bowlers in the history of the game - the two seamers that took 500 wickets, for example - and by the end of their careers they certainly weren't bowling anywhere near 90 miles per hour. What you lose in speed as your career goes on, you can make up in other areas."

As things stand, only Glenn McGrath (who retired aged 36 with 563 wickets) and Courtney Walsh (who retired aged 38 with 519) among seam bowlers have more Test wickets than Anderson. Sometime over the next week or so at Lord's, he is likely to claim the three wickets he requires to become the third seamer to reach the 500 mark (three spinners have also done so). But, for all the acclaim such landmarks bring, he seems uneasy when talking about them and relatively disinterested.

"I am not really that fussed," he says. "I want to win the series and the Test match next week. Milestones have never really meant a lot. They probably will mean more when I've finished playing and actually reflect on what I have achieved, but right now it is about trying to win.

"McGrath's record isn't a target. The 500 mark isn't a target. I don't set targets. I just want to help England win games. I'm amazed I've got this close to 500. But Stuart Broad is four years younger than me, he's bowling really well and he can certainly get 500 Test wickets. And he can certainly get past however many I take."

For a man with a remarkable record, Anderson appears admirably unconcerned with averages. If he was, he might not have rushed to prove his fitness before returning to the India tour, where only flat tracks and Virat Kohli's broad bat awaited, and he might not have been so keen to bowl in the second innings at Perth in 2013 when most of his team-mates were indisposed.

"I always want to play," he says. "And I always want to bowl. I don't like shirking responsibility. I don't just put my hand up to bowl when we are on a green seamer. I probably get more satisfaction bowling on a really difficult, flat wicket than I do getting a five-for on a green seamer.

"I know there is a high chance I won't go to Australia again so I will try to enjoy it. I am certainly nearer to the end than the start. So I guess I do appreciate it more now.

"I don't play because of my average. If everyone in our team played for their average, then we wouldn't be very good.

"Winning in India in 2012 and Australia in 2010-11 are my proudest memories. Contributing to England victories gives me satisfaction. Getting wickets in those series and making valuable contributions.

"I do love bowling and the feeling of getting a wicket, but the actual feeling of winning a game, sharing that moment at the end of a Test match with team-mates… that's why I play the game. They are the memories I'll take with me."

Jimmy Anderson was speaking on behalf of BRUT, the iconic men's grooming range. Follow @BRUTforMen