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Ageless Mercedes Anderson & the rarest feat of 700 milestone

Anderson reaches to 700 milestone

Mark Vermeulen won’t be too sad knowing that the person whom he got out, some 21-years ago at Lord’s, has taken 699 more Test wickets after that point. The bowler, by then much more lanky, was running with the cherry by then, and now he is still sprinting with the same energy and entertainment. He is ageless, like a Mercedes; he is James Michael Anderson OBE.

His milestones wickets in the last two occasions haven’t been a special one. When Anderson became the first pacer to take 600 Test wickets, it was an empty Ages Bowl, and the final afternoon of the series. Four years later, it was a picturesque ground at the top of the mountains in Dharamshala, but England was in a disaster position.

Having already lost the series, and being so much behind the position, it could have been a filthy situation to celebrate the feat, but such was the weight of that landmark that the second the outswinger found the edge of Kuldeep Yadav, the England players rushed towards Anderson, even before Ben Foakes grabbed it safely with all the attention.

Anderson and his ageless productivity
©- CricketMan2/ Twitter
A look of Anderson and his longevity in the current world

One would always find it funny whenever they look at it. On commentary, it was Grame Swann when Anderson celebrated his milestone moment. Swann, who began his Test career some five years after the quick, retired almost a decade ago, in between becoming one of England’s greatest bowler, and perhaps the best off-spinner.

Mike Atherton was enjoying the game, and it was actually him, who put his voice on Anderson’s maiden Test wicket in 2003. He was involved in a Sky Sports Podcast at the completion of the Test match with Nasser Hussain, who rewarded Anderson his first Test cap against Zimbabwe. The moment he got that first wicket, it was Micheal Vaughan who gave Anderson the first cuddle on that morning, and at the moment is preparing to write various pieces on him.

When Alastair Cook retired with wet eyes in 2018 at the Kia Oval against India, the question was how much Anderson would pull from that point. Cook, who made his Essex debut after Anderson’s first World Cup campaign to South Africa in 2003, paid his tribute in the TNT studio. “What he’s done is a joke”- Cook narrated. Besides him was Steven Finn, who had his own fast bowling career of 125 Test wickets. The fact would mind boggle one would be how Anderson grabbed 156 before Finn’s maiden Test, and 237 since his last.

“In the foothills of Himalayas, he’s reached an insurmountable summit for a fast bowler in Test match cricket.” Finn proclaimed. In the current world, where most of the players have a tendency of flying around the world to enjoy heavy checks to be part of various T20 leagues, the Barney boy is still giving his all the hard work to the Test format.

Fast bowling is tough. It’s never easy to come at 5 pm in the afternoon and bowl with the same energy and gas, having already bowled 15-16 overs and staying on the field for over five hours. The recovery takes much of the life. There had been times in his 187 Tests, when his body would be aching in pain, but he would stand up, and have a lone jogging in the winter morning, just to hold his shape for years to come.

Not many follow these, and if they somehow, it becomes immensely hard to continue with the same energy for a long period. For Anderson, the number stands at 187 Tests, and 21- long years, and at the moment, according to his birth certificate, he is four months short of becoming a 42-year-old. Old? Nah, he is young, carrying the same bubble of the 20-year-old kid.

Anderson and his ageless productivity
©- CricketMan2/ Twitter
Anderson and the skill of mastering all conditions:

On a truly remarkable career, Anderson now sits 94 wickets ahead of Stuart Broad (604) to be the highest wicket-taker as a pace bowler in Tests, playing 187 Tests, 13 less than Sachin Tendulkar, the person who surely will be in Anderson’s mind before hanging his shoes. The next best of most Tests is Broad with 167, and then it’s Courtney Walsh with 132.

Anderson’s progression over the years has kept him in shape and put him ahead in the race of most of the England bowlers. It’s an expertise to make developments in his bowling for various conditions. He had an average of 34.51 in his first 29 Tests for 104 scalps, which went down to 19.42 in 25 Tests in the period when he grabbed 102 wickets from 404th to 506th. The last 100 wickets for Anderson has come at an average of 24.91 in 31 Test matches.

Till 2009, in 44 Tests, Anderson had 148 wickets at an average of 34.85 and a strike rate of 60.7. In the next 4-years, he was part of 47 Tests, picking up 192 wickets at an average of 27.34. The average came down to 22.66 since 2014, where he has notched up 360 scalps in 96 Tests with 17 five-wicket hauls.

Only Rangana Herath, 233 scalps in 46 Tests, has picked up more wickets than Anderson’s 220 in 62 Tests after turning to 35. But the average for Anderson in 22.86 in the period in an comparison of Herath’s 26.83. Since the start of 2014, in the last decade, Anderson is the third highest wicket-taker with 360 scalps, only behind Kagiso Rabada (291) and Ravichandran Aswin (407).

As the Non-Asian bowler, Anderson is the joint highest wicket taker in Asia with 92 scalps in 32 Tests with Dale Steyn, who has achieved the feat in mare 22 Tests. For those bowlers, who has picked up more than 150 wickets since 2014, Anderson has the best economy rate (2.47).

If, still one believes Anderson needs conditions to pick up wickets, then perhaps they have already made their mind of watching Anderson in a different avatar!

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Anderson and the question of where and when

The other day, Geoffrey Boycott made a statement of how quickly England need to develop a player who could come in the afternoon after bowling 20 overs, and bowl with the same pace and intensity with the new cherry. He thinks that England can’t go on with Anderson forever putting so much weight on sentiment.

He is right, certainly, but the issue is that Anderson is still fit and giving all in every other series. At the end of all the tours, Anderson finds himself in a better shape, and looks forward for the next summer. For a player who has given so much to the dying format for the last 21 years, isn’t it the time for the board to give him back the time he wants and carry as much as he could! Once he is gone, he is gone, and he won’t come back.

With no Stuart Broad from the next English summer, there will be times, when the young fast bowlers would look at Anderson for some inspirations and tips. There will be times when someone needs to come and dry up the runs, and look to explore different things, and Anderson is the best in the business even at this age.

Anderson comes at number 11 with the bat, most times, and that means he does the honor of shaking hands with the opponents after a defeat to congratulate the opponents to say well done. He has been part of 68 defeats so far in England shirt in this format. The number is bigger than most of the cricketer’s whole Test careers.

In an ideal world, England would be looking for Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Matthews Potts, Sam Curran, Gus Atkinson, and few more England pacers to shoulder the England bowling in the summer. But Are they better than Anderson even that age? He 41-year’s body is more reliant than the 30-year-old’s. Jofra Archer is yet to fit, and there is no guarantee on when he would.

It remains the million-dollar question to figure out when Anderson will say, that’s enough. The gaps of his milestone wickets have been bigger because of missing Tests to keep him fresh for a long time. It took his two years to get to 500 from 400, another three years for the next hundred, and the next one took another four. In that calculation, he may, yes may, go past Muralitharan by the age of 46. Will he? You never know with Jimmy!

Leaving with the fact, that even after playing his last ODI, almost a decade ago, during the 2015 World Cup, Anderson is still England’s highest wicket-taker in the format with 269 scalps. Can you imagine? Well, don’t try, because it’s reality!

That Mad Writer
Author: That Mad Writer

Someone who loves how Steve Smith from being Australia's future Shane Warne has become present Don Bradman, gets inspired by Anderson's longevity, gets awed with Kohli's drive and Southee's bowling action. Never gets excited with stats and records, and believes in instincts, and always questions spinners bowling with the new ball.

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