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James Anderson: England's King of Swing

England's James Anderson celebrates after taking his 600th Test wicket
England's James Anderson celebrates after taking his 600th Test wicket Alastair Grant POOL/AFP
4 min
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Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP)

James Anderson did something no other paceman has achieved when he dismissed Pakistan captain Azhar Ali in Southampton on Tuesday to reach 600 Test wickets.

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."

If anyone could sympathise with those sentiments it is the 38-year-old Anderson, now appearing in his 156th Test.

What Trueman could not have foreseen was the increase in the number of Test nations and matches that would take place in the intervening years.

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 nothing should detract from 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 tried to develop a more aggressive persona of "Jimmy" when taking the new ball against the world's best batsmen 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.

- Attack leader -

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 of 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.

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.

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 Twitter 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 while the paceman has mellowed, there were flashes of temper when three catches were dropped off his bowling on Sunday.

Even so 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.

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