James Anderson broke Glen McGrath’s record for wickets taken by a fast bowler in the final Test match against India this week. The Englishman took the final wicket in the game that saw Alastair Cook bow out of international cricket.
His tally of 564 leaves him fourth in the list of all-time wicket-takers. Only spin bowlers Anil Kumble (619, India), Shane Warne (708, Australia), and Muttiah Muralitharan (800, Sri Lanka) have taken more.
Anderson, 36, deserves a lot of praise for maintaining fitness levels and drive over his long career, which has undoubtedly contributed to his success. The hardest thing for a bowler at the top of his game is to maintain that level for many years. Far too often have we seen great bowlers retire early due to injuries or losing their edge.
Mitchell Johnson is a prime example. The Australian played 73 Test matches taking 313 wickets leaving him as the fourth best wicket taker for his country when he retired. He had a tumultuous career, losing his place in the side due to stints of poor form at times, but also winning ICC Cricketer of the year twice too. Had Johnson had the longevity of Anderson, he could have been challenging for that record too. Gough, Harmison, and Jones too ended their careers early as their bodies let them down.
McGrath was dignified as his record was broken, challenging Anderson to take more wickets. “If he can raise the bar to 600 wickets, that’s an incredible effort. I was proud to hold it for as long as I did. For it to be beaten by somebody like Jimmy Anderson is great”
“I have a lot of respect for Jimmy. He’s been an incredible bowler for a long time. To have played well over 140 Tests and just keep running in, day in, day out, and remain at the top of his game. Yeah, I’m very proud Jimmy’s got there.’
Fellow Englishman Stuart Broad is the next most likely active player to break Anderson’s record. Four years younger and 133 wickets behind, if Broad can keep up with the physicality of a packed cricketing schedule he may eclipse his teammate. McGrath doubts that the record will be broken any time soon, “just to play enough games to get anywhere near it is tough in itself.” Anderson has currently played 143 Test matches, 11 more than any other fast bowler.
He says he isn’t done with Test cricket quite yet though. “I don’t really think about it. I play my best when I focus on what’s ahead of me; the next game, the next series, whatever it is. I don’t like looking too far ahead. I don’t think it helps certainly me or the team.”
England will be hoping they can continue their winning form in tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies this winter. Continuing their momentum will be crucial as the side looks forward to next summer’s Ashes.