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Celebrating the longevity of James Anderson


James_Anderson_England_Cricket_TestThere are many greats talking points in cricket, and one that certainly gets a lot of airtime is ‘the greatness of James Anderson’.

Depending on where you are arguing this from, ‘the greatness’ is often more questioned than celebrated.

He recently became the highest wicket taking fast bowler in the history of Test cricket. He achieved the feat as England romped to a 4-1 Test series victory over the number 1 ranked Test team India, and with that surpassed the great Glenn McGrath.

But he can only perform with the Duke ball people say. Or that if you take away overhead conditions he is very average, also comes up. Plus, many suggest his away record tells you all you need to know.

But in surpassing McGrath he took 564 wickets over a Test career of 143 matches.

To that, people then question what ‘better’ ex-fast bowlers would have achieved if they had amassed as many matches.

Well to apply a basic equation of wickets taken per Test, and then adding the Tests these players needed to get to 143 Tests, this is what these bowlers ‘may’ have achieved:

- Dennis Lillee
355 wicket from 70 Tests - Add another 73 Tests at 5 wickets a Test for 725 wickets

- Richard Hadley
431 wickets from 86 Tests - Add another 57 Tests at 5 wickets a Test for 716 wickets

- Malcom Marshall
376 wickets from 81 Tests - Add another 62 Tests at 4.6 wickets a Test for 664 wickets

- Allan Donald
330 wickets from 72 Tests - Add another 71 Tests at 4.5 wickets a Test for 655 wickets

- Waqar Younis
373 wickets from 87 Tests - Add another 56 Tests at 4.2 wickets a Test for 613 wickets

- Curtley Ambrose
405 wickets from 98 Tests - Add another 45 Tests at 4.1 wickets a Test for 591 wickets

- Wasim Akram
414 wickets from 104 Tests - Add another 39 Tests at 3.9 wickets a Test for 569 wickets

 - James Anderson - 143 Test matches - 564 wickets -

- Courtney Walsh
519 wickets from 132 Tests - Add another 11 Tests at 3.9 wickets a Test for 562 wickets

- Shaun Pollock
421 wickets from 108 Tests - Add another 35 Tests at 3.8 wickets a Test for 557 wickets

- Makhaya Ntini
390 wickets from 101 Tests - Add another 42 Tests at 3.8 wickets a Test for 552 wickets

Makes for interesting reading to see what these ex-players could have achieved. But they didn’t.

That’s like saying if the Proteas delivered to their potential in every World Cup, they would be the most successful team in the tournament’s history.

You don’t have to hero worship James Anderson, but you have to admire his longevity and all that he has achieved as a result.

Stepping up for his team time and time again. Starting each new season with so much mileage already on the clock, and each time knowing that his country is relying on him no matter what. Constantly touring, constantly working on his craft, trying to be the best Test bowler he could possibly be. He didn’t muddy his career with T20 aspirations, or veer away elsewhere in life. He simply stuck at being England’s new ball mainstay.

As sports fans we love the superstars, and probably make too much of them. James Anderson probably isn’t the superstar we want, but he has given more than anyone to become one. To further prove this, he is in Sri Lanka right now for a Test series that doesn’t mean too much in the greater scheme of things. Other players in his position may look to take a breather. Not Anderson though, he’s still leading his team with the ball.

At the end of the day, records are all that stands. Not Twitter rants or banter over beers. Anderson isn’t done yet either, and when he is, he will probably have a wicket tally that no other fast bowler can eclipse.


You guessed it, because Anderson has played 143 Test matches*.

Who else is going to be able to play as many Tests from here on in as an opening bowler? To be completely frank, there can be only one.

From the chasing ‘current’ pack, fellow countryman and a man 4 years his junior, Stuart Broad is on 433 wickets after 123 Tests.

After Broad though, well I just can’t see it happening.

Next in line, Dale Steyn is currently on 421 wickets, but his Test career seems to have hit a wall with injuries and numerous setbacks over the past 18 months. And at the age of 35 you might as well put a fork in him with regards to this current topic.

To give you an idea of what a giant leap it is until the next current seamer to add to this discussion, we have Ishant Sharma on 256 wickets. So we cast our search to the next generation of superstar, and the one that is burning the brightest right now. Kagiso Rabada.

The Proteas bowler has taken 151 wickets after 32 Tests at an average of 21.71 and a strike rate of 39.3. To do some basic mathematics here: for him to match Anderson’s 564 wickets from 143 Tests, Rabada would need to take just 3.7 wickets a Test for the next 111 Tests.

Seems incredibly straight forward, but what are the chances of him playing another 111 Tests? Slim to none unfortunately. Even if the young fast bowler were to maintain his strength and stamina, staying injury free, South Africa simply don’t play enough Test cricket. The Proteas, as a reference, have just 10 Tests in 2018, with a similar schedule looking like it could be the norm going forward.

So Rabada will need to probably play every Test for his country for the next 11 years. Incredibly, he will still only be 34 after doing such a thing. But with him having to carry his team’s attack (inevitable), plus playing white ball cricket and enjoying some T20 pay days around the world in that time, such a Test career is most unlikely.

So well done James Anderson. Your longevity should be an inspiration to all. You will be remembered with the legends of the game for good reason.

*Stats correct at the start of the Sri Lanka series.

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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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