“When he makes it swing, the Barmy Army sing, for Jimmy Anderson.” The chant made famous by England’s most devoted Test fans in the 2017 Ashes. But James Anderson has been running in the new ball for his national side now for over 19 years.
The 39-year-old has long been a favourite of players, coaches and fans and yesterday the Lancashire pacer notched up his 650th Test wicket as England attempted to bowl out New Zealand on day four of the second Test at Trent Bridge – which finished with New Zealand on 244-7.
The landmark extended his lead as the most successful wicket-taking pacer in international cricket and put him third on the all-time list of bowlers – behind the spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan and the recently passed Shane Warne.
The Sri Lankan sits pretty at the summit of the table on 800 wickets with Warne on 708, and due to the physical strain of relentless fast bowling it appears unlikely Anderson will reach higher than third. His opening spell partner Stuart Broad is sixth on the list with 544.
Anderson’s first victim was Zimbabwe’s Mark Vermeulen in 2003 at Lord’s, the youthful pacer blowing the bails with a speedy delivery that would soon become his trademark.
His latest scalp? New Zealand captain Tom Latham with a stunning delivery to topple the middle stump.
It marked Anderson’s 502nd wicket since 2010 – a statistical demonstration, if nothing else, of how the Burnley boy has developed into a world class bowling option.
A five-fer on debut, 30 more would follow – three times has the pacer notched 10 wickets in a Test match.
Anderson, who turns 40 next month, doesn’t look to be slowing down either. Despite being dropped by England for the series defeat in the West Indies at the start of the year, it was almost inevitable that Anderson would be recalled – Joe Root’s last touring side as captain looked devoid of bowling options.
And in an era of modern English cricket where seamers seem to be constantly injured – Jofra Archer, Olly Stone and Ollie Robinson to name a few – his presence around the squad can be a calming influence to new captain Ben Stokes.
It’s testament to his durability, too. His 19-year career has been bettered by just three players since 1993 – with Sachin Tendulkar’s 24-year stint the leader – but Anderson has bowled over 36,500 deliveries in Test matches.
England have struggled of late – and Anderson has faced his own moments during his side’s Test slum – but he has come out of the other side guns blazing and his side will be thankful for it. Unbroken, unwavering and performing at the highest level.
England remain in this Test series against the Black Caps, and no matter the result today on the fifth and final day at Trent Bridge they will be able to win the series should they prevail at Headingley.
After a poor display with the bat at Lord’s in the opening Test, it was the bowling attack – spearheaded by Anderson – that made the difference.
Last weekend saw the power of batting on a pretty safe crease, where bowling seam, swing and spin has done little.
But whether it be today or in the third Test, when England need something to happen, they can turn to Anderson.
Because when Anderson makes it swing at 39 and makes everybody in the crowd sing there must be no better feeling.