How retiring Anderson defied age to become an all-time great swing bowler

Since turning 35, James Anderson's average is just under 23 in Test cricket

By AFP

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James Anderson is the only pace bowler to take 700 Test wickets. — Reuters
James Anderson is the only pace bowler to take 700 Test wickets. — Reuters

Published: Sun 12 May 2024, 10:41 AM

Last updated: Sun 12 May 2024, 10:42 AM

James Anderson will bow out as one of cricket's all-time greats when England face West Indies in July after becoming the first pace bowler to take 700 Test wickets.

The 41-year-old will bring down the curtain on a glorious Test career at Lord's, 21 years after his debut, as England head coach Brendon McCullum looks to build for the future with one eye on the 2025-26 Ashes.


"I'm going to miss walking out for England so much," Anderson said on Saturday.

"But I know the time is right to step aside and let others realise their dreams just like I got to, because there is no greater feeling."


Only two spinners, Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan (800 Test wickets) and the late Australia great Shane Warne (708), are ahead of Anderson on the all-time list of the five-day game's most successful bowlers.

Anderson joined the exclusive '700 club' in his 187th Test during England's tour of India earlier this year.

The Lancashire seamer has defied his age and the toil of the gruelling Test-match format thanks to his conventional swing bowling skill and an ability to generating reverse-swing later in an innings, while maintaining tight control.

Those qualities have helped him pick up 32 five-wicket hauls, with his scalps coming at an average of 26.52.

The dynamic leadership of England captain Ben Stokes and McCullum has provided Anderson with fresh inspiration in recent years.

In defiance of conventional wisdom about the physical toll of pace bowling, late-career Anderson was just as effective as the spring chicken that flew into the crease two decades previously.

Statistics compiled by ESPNCricinfo showed that in the years he was aged 25 to 29, Anderson averaged 28.47 runs per Test wicket.

Between 30 and 34, that figure improved to 25.45, and since turning 35, Anderson's average is just under 23.

But by calling it quits in his Test career, Anderson will follow in the footsteps of his long-time bowling partner Stuart Broad, who retired after last year's Ashes series in England at the age of 37 with 604 Test wickets.

Anderson also played in 194 ODIs and 19 T20s -- he was an unused squad member in England's T20 World Cup success in 2010 -- before his international white-ball career ended in 2015.

Prior to Anderson, the last time a quick bowler appeared in Test cricket beyond the age of 40 was when Les Jackson made the second of his two England appearances back in 1961.

India's Sachin Tendulkar, an all-time batting great, lauded Anderson's ability to challenge even cricket's greatest run-scorers.

"He would hold the ball as if he is bowling an outswinger," said Tendulkar.

"But the release point, he would try and bring the ball back in."

Anderson's final match will fittingly be at the home of cricket in the first Test of the English summer season from July 10.

"English cricket owes Jimmy Anderson a send-off like no other," said the English and Wales Cricket Board's chair Richard Thompson.

"I don't think we'll ever see a bowler to match Jimmy again. It has been an honour as an England fan to watch him, and to marvel at his skill with the ball.

"To still be bowling at the top of his game at 41 is remarkable, and he is a true inspiration and role model for peers and younger generations alike."

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