How many ‘big’ England Test careers can you cram into the span of James Anderson’s?

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James Anderson plays his final Test next week, having made his Test debut in 2003. There was a bit of a fallow ‘bowling at a single stump during the lunch interval’ period early on, but even then he did play at least one Test match every year. It struck us that quite a lot of seemingly ‘big’ England Test careers have been not just shorter than that, but massively shorter than that. We wondered how many of them could be squeezed into the same span of time.

The premise is this: we have had 21 years of James Anderson – what does that equate to when measured in other people?

The key here is to find England players who feel significant because some comparisons are a bit shrug-inducing.

For example, Martin Saggers’ Test career spanned a year (well, October to June). Saying that James Anderson’s career amounts to 21 Saggerses doesn’t really tell us much.

Conversely, Kevin Pietersen played Test cricket for nine years. If we present Anderson’s career as two Pietersens and a Simon Jones, that feels a bit more ‘wow’. Putting it in those terms gives us much more of a sense of how long Jimmy has been shaping our experience of England’s Test matches.

> What James Anderson bowling in a bobble hat tells us about ourselves

Some names and numbers

We’ll list a handful of England Test lifespans below and you can slice and dice how you want. (Or suggest your own.) We’ve kept it to players whose careers overlapped with Anderson and we’ve also omitted players who haven’t yet retired.

When picking these out, we were struck that quite a few of the more obvious ‘value’ picks played in the 2010-11 Ashes. We suppose those guys got a bit of a profile bump relative to England players who were around during other, less successful periods.

You’ve got 21 years to play with. What’s the greatest weight of Test significance you can muster?

  • 2 years – Geraint Jones, Eoin Morgan
  • 3 years – Simon Jones, Gary Ballance
  • 4 years – Tim Bresnan
  • 5 years – Graeme Swann
  • 6 years – Marcus Trescothick, Jonathan Trott, Steven Finn
  • 7 years – Mark Butcher, Steve Harmison, Matt Prior
  • 8 years – Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Strauss
  • 9 years – Darren Gough, Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen, Moeen Ali
  • 11 years – Ian Bell
  • 12 years – Alastair Cook

Our choice

This is an absolute chronological nonsense obviously, but here’s our choice. In terms of sheer duration, within the timespan of one James Anderson Test career, you could line up, end-to-end, the entire Test careers of Geraint Jones, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott and Andrew Strauss.

Further reading

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  1. Cook and Strauss for me. Our bulwark for batting longevity, success, and sheer number of runs; and by far his most successful Ashes-smashing opening partner. Jimmy gobbles them up with a year left over. And he’s a seam bowler.

    (Unrelated, but please check the KC inbox when you have a moment.)

  2. Saggers was the umpire for Lancs Notts at Southport this week where Jimmy was playing. Coincidence?

  3. I’m a simple man.
    Alistair Cook + Michael Vaughan = James Anderson.
    And I think I’d still take Jimmy.

      1. As I’ve thought on this more, there’s a case I’m being disrespectful to the batsmen but an article celebrating Jimmy requires nothing less, I guess.
        Plus, f*ck batsmen, eh?

    1. As with so many things, these Tories have made a mockery of what was once a very useful metric.

  4. I make no apology for switching to measures personal to me and also, I suppose, to KC.

    With the possible exception of the odd paragraph about charity cricket matches on my company website, I started writing silly s**t on the web about cricket c2004, for the Middlesex Till We Die website and around that time a few other places. I discovered this site c2007, when it was, I believe, still quite new.

    Hence, Jimmy Anderson’s career spans a longer period than my and/or KC’s cricket writing careers to date.

    However, having now silicon-dated my cricket troos to spring 2001…

    …I can confidently say that my cricket troos have had a longer (although admittedly fewer matches and less glorious) cricket career than Jimmy Anderson.

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