“I just can’t see him (James Anderson) stopping.” These were the words of England’s Test captain Ben Stokes said after James Anderson scaled new heights in his illustrious Test career for England. At 40 years and 207 days, Anderson stormed into the top of the ICC rankings on Wednesday to become the oldest bowler to reach the pinnacle spot in rankings since Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett did so in 1936.
A fast bowler playing for 20 years is in itself a great achievement but to complement that with shining performances while ageing is one to really admire about. Anderson has been England’s most trusted bowler and the captain Stokes himself believes that. “Every time he turns out there, he’s one of the main guys you throw the ball to when you feel like you need a wicket. He’s just relentless with everything that he does,” Stokes said.
Yes, he absolutely is one of those superhumans that defy all the age criteria. After producing seven wickets in the first Test win against New Zealand, Anderson’s average went under 26 for the first time since his second Test match in 2003. Not only in England, where one can get a banana swing at times but also in flat tracks, where batting is like a paradise; Anderson proves to be a man for his team.
Take an example of recent England vs Pakistan Test series, which witnessed some great flat pitches and some which assisted spinners. The Rawalpindi test witnessed the highest score ever made in a five-day Test. England batters sent Pakistan bowlers to the cleaners for fun, while the Pakistani batters were also good with their defence. On a surface that still had plenty for the batters in the final innings, Anderson was able to extract whatever was there and took 4 wickets for 36 runs in the 4th innings to help England go 1-0 up. This was his first series in Pakistan and he took 8 wickets in 2 games.
To many people’s surprise, the man has performed even better after ageing above 30. Since his 30th Birthday in 2012, Anderson has been on a different planet. The right-arm quick has taken the most test wickets in the world since turning 30. In 108 games, he has scalped 417 wickets and is the only bowler to go over 400 wickets after turning 30. Sri Lanka’s retired Rangana Herath, a left-arm spinner is the next in this list. Herath has taken 398 wickets after turning 30.
He is still unstoppable after turning 35. The veteran has taken 205 test wickets after turning 35 and might well go past Herath here too if he takes 29 wickets. Notably, only four fast bowlers have taken more than 100 test wickets after turning 35 and Anderson is already above 200 wickets.
His average and strike rate after turning 30 got better and even better after turning 35. Anderson has a career average and strike rate of 25.93 and 55.7, respectively. Since 2012, he is averaging 23.08 and striking at 54.3. Come more further. Since his 35th cake day, Anderson has averaged as low as 20.63 and striking at 52.7. Anderson might be in the twilight of his career but he is the second-most-capped player in the history of Test cricket. Mind you, he is a fast bowler. Anderson has played 179 Test matches and is only behind the legendary Sachin Tendulkar in this list. Tendulkar has played 200 Test matches. Anderson is the third leading wicket-taker and the leading pacer in the world in the longest format. There are only 3 fast bowlers except him to take over 500 test wickets and Anderson has already taken 685 wickets. Surely, Anderson is ageing but he is still tearing the batting lineups and is ageing like a fine wine, which gets only better and better.