He saw catches go down. He saw bad light stop play. He saw rain come down heavily. He showed his grumpy side during it all but also managed to break into a wry smile here and there. And, after what must have felt like an eternity, he got a brief window to do what he does best: run in hard, bowl tough deliveries and flummox batsman.
On the final day of the English Test summer, during the final session, England’s James Anderson did something no other pacer has achieved when he dismissed Pakistan captain Azhar Ali in Southampton on Tuesday to reach 600 Test wickets.
(Note: Scroll sideways or swipe right to view all columns in the tables below)
James Anderson's Test career summary
After fellow England quick Fred Trueman became the first bowler to take 300 Test wickets, a then astonishing figure, in 1964, he was asked whether he thought anyone would ever break his record.
Trueman replied: “Aye, but whoever does will be bloody tired.”
Well, 38-year-old Anderson has put that theory to rest: appearing in his 156th Test, Anderson breached the 600 mark and is evidently raring to keep going.
Sure, Trueman could not have foreseen was the increase in the number of Test nations and matches that would take place in the intervening years. Add to that increasing awareness about sports science, recovery and rehabilitation, careers were bound to last longer — not just in cricket, mind you.
And unlike Trueman, a stalwart performer for Yorkshire, the advent of England central contracts means Anderson has not had to bowl hundreds of overs for Lancashire alongside his international commitments.
But, to play 17 years at the top level of Test cricket is a remarkable feat: no caveats needed. There are no asterisks needed to celebrate Anderson’s endurance or skill.
He burst on the scene as a 20-year-old when, after just three limited-overs county games, he was summoned to Australia for a one-day international series.
Anderson made his England debut in Melbourne in December 2002, taking a modest 1/46 in six overs but he improved on the tour and won himself a place in England’s squad for the 2003 World Cup.
He made his Test debut at Lord’s later that year, taking 26 wickets in seven Tests against Zimbabwe and South Africa.
But his form wavered and for a time Anderson found himself reduced to bowling at cones during England practice sessions.
A stress fracture kept Anderson on the outside looking in as England, under the captaincy of Michael Vaughan, assembled the pace attack of Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones that would help them win the celebrated 2005 Ashes series.
Anderson’s distinctive action was also subjected to some unwelcome interference from coaches concerned over a potential risk of injury.
But he was back for England’s miserable 5-0 Ashes series loss in Australia in 2006/07, taking just five wickets at an average of 82.60.
For some pundits, that series damned Anderson forever as a bowler who thrived in home, swing-friendly conditions but he learned from that experience and an overseas record of 194 wickets at 33.36 in 61 Tests is an impressive return.
Anderson even tried developing a more aggressive persona before realising that, as many great West Indies fast bowlers had before him, he did not need to say too much in the middle.
A key moment in his career came in 2008 when, after a 189-run defeat by New Zealand in the first Test in Hamilton, then-England coach Peter Moores dropped Hoggard and Harmison and gave Anderson the new ball for the Wellington Test.
Anderson's wicket-tally year by year
Leader of the attack
Anderson took five wickets in the first innings and was then the unchallenged leader of England’s attack. He played a key role in England’s only Ashes triumph in Australia in recent times, taking 24 wickets at 26 during their 2010-’11 success.
And when, in 2012, England achieved a rare series win in India, MS Dhoni said Anderson had been the difference between the two teams even as England’s spinners outbowled India’s.
“Anderson bowled very well throughout the series on wickets that there was no help for the fast bowler,” Dhoni had said. “That was crucial. He tested the batsmen all the time. In his second or third spell when he started to get reverse and yet the ball was slightly on the harder side. The major difference between the two sides was James Anderson who bowled really well.”
In a career of many highlights, being the difference-maker in a series win in India — a fortress for the home side — would certainly rank at the very top for Anderson.
By now he had formed a hugely productive new-ball partnership with Stuart Broad, whose ability to seam the ball complements Anderson’s late swing through the air.
James Anderson's Test record in diff countries
|in South Africa||10||18||34||5/40||34.61||67.9||2|
|in West Indies||10||17||36||6/42||24.80||57.7||2|
|in New Zealand||7||12||26||5/73||32.80||58.8||1|
|in Sri Lanka||6||11||12||5/72||46.08||88.3||1|
James Anderson's Test record vs all opponents
|v South Africa||2003-2020||26||47||993.2||214||2932||93||5/40||8/161||31.52||2.95||64.0||4|
|v West Indies||2004-2020||22||41||752.3||212||1967||87||7/42||9/73||22.60||2.61||51.8||5|
|v New Zealand||2008-2018||14||26||492.1||121||1610||60||7/43||9/98||26.83||3.27||49.2||3|
|v Sri Lanka||2003-2018||13||24||449.1||117||1241||52||5/16||10/45||23.86||2.76||51.8||4|
And the fact England decided to end Anderson’s white-ball career after the 2015 World Cup has helped extend his longevity as a Test bowler.
In September 2018, he surpassed Glenn McGrath’s 563 wickets to become Test cricket’s most successful fast bowler.
The sheer physical strain of his trade saw Anderson break a rib bowling against South Africa at Cape Town in January, yet he still bowled 37 overs in the match, taking seven wickets.
Anderson has become increasingly savvy in his dealings with the media – when it was suggested on social media that he was on the wane this month, he held a press conference in which he made it clear he was far from finished.
And after having going the entire summer without a wicket in the second innings, Anderson had to pull up his socks and run in hard one more time for two wickets that would have meant the world to him. The reaction that was a mix of joy and relief said it all as he held up the ball to his dressing room, even if it had to happen with no fans in the stadium.
James Anderson's Test career by innings
|1st match innings||68||167||6/47||26.80||55.8||7|
|2nd match innings||87||208||7/43||26.83||56.2||15|
|3rd match innings||80||147||7/42||27.03||56.1||4|
|4th match innings||56||78||6/17||26.23||57.2||3|
The maturity was on display in the third Test against Pakistan when Anderson still took 5/65 – his 29th five-wicket haul in Tests. Only one seamer, New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee, has claimed more.
Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan’s record of 800 Test wickets may be beyond even Anderson but his place in cricket history is secure.
“I’m working hard on my fitness all the time, working hard on my game. I didn’t bowl as well as I’d have liked for the whole summer but this Test match I was really on it and I feel like I’ve still got stuff to offer this team,” added Anderson, who finished with match figures of 7/101.
“As long as I still feel like that I think I’ll keep going. There will be decisions along the way with the selectors and coach and captain around how the team moves forward but as long as they want me around I’ll keep working hard and try to prove I’m good enough to play in this team.”
If he indeed does keep going and rewriting the history books, next stop would be wicket No 620 to go past Anil Kumble.
(With AFP inputs)