James Anderson: 600 and counting
The best bowler in English history moves into a league of his own
As far as English cricketing summers go, 2020 will be unique for all the wrong reasons. Six test matches in empty grounds have been surreal, yet even without the atmosphere viewers from home have been treated to plenty of stand out moments.
Stuart Broad took his 500th test match wicket, Zak Crawley hit his first test century (then turned it into a hefty double ton) and Jos Buttler scored his highest test innings. Yet one man topped all of this and reminded everyone that despite his age, he is still the best fast bowler in town.
When Pakistan captain Azhar Ali edged behind to Joe Root yesterday, he came James Anderson's’ 600th victim in test cricket. The man from Burnley has left batting orders in pieces for 17 years. His seven wickets in the 3rd test against Pakistan helped him to become the first fast bowler to ever reach 600 test wickets. For years, the top three leading wicket takers were all spinners. However, this summer has seen Anderson move to just 19 behind Anil Kumble. Few bowlers deserve it more than Jimmy.
In reality, Anderson should have had his landmark scalp well before Ali was sent back to the dressing room. Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Stuart Broad and Jos Buttler all dropped chances off Jimmy's’ bowling. The frustration was clear and justified, but it would have been far worse had Anderson been stuck on 599 for months.
Anderson has been the king of swing for years. He has bowled England out of a corner on more occasions than many would wish to remember. His ability to get the ball moving often ridiculous amounts is what has seen him achieve what no other fast bowler has done in test cricket before.
He is a bowler who has oozed class during his career. Being the senior bowler for such a long time, Jimmy has played a part in some quality England sides, as well as standing out in some pretty average ones. Whatever the situation or whoever the opponent, he has rarely disappointed.
Retirement is a word which has been banded around recently, but not by the man himself. A look at the stats reveals that he, like a fine wine, is improving with age.
The last few years have been a golden era for English bowlers, with Anderson being one half of one of the best opening partnerships in the history of the game. He and Stuart Broad have taken over 1100 wickets for England, with the majority coming in the 11 years since the latter made his debut. Retirement, for either, still feels like a conversation neither wants to have just yet.
Jimmy is a quality player who always comes across as down to earth. Speaking after taking his 600th, Anderson pointed out his happiness of reaching the personal landmark with long term team mates and close friends on the pitch alongside him. He has been doing a remarkable job for his country for years, the only shame is that on this occasion there were no fans in the ground to see it.
When he does call time on his career, James Anderson will be the fast bowler which many across the world will aspire to be. To climb above such iconic names as Glen McGrath and Courtney Walsh and still look capable of taking plenty more wickets is an impressive feat to say the least.
The crazy thing is that, with Stuart Broad playing alongside him, Anderson may not be alone in the 600 club for long. Whatever happens, he will go down in history as one of the greatest to ever play the game and, if Broad does pass 600 wickets, Anderson will be joined by a close mate from both on and off the pitch.