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

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3 minute read

There is undeniably something wrong with James Anderson that he still wants to play this game as much as he so obviously does. Good on him.

As 24-year-old Sam Curran turns his arm over in Mohali before tens of thousands of fans and a TV audience of millions – sweat dripping from every pore, the most expensive player in cricket history – 40-year-old James Anderson slats it down in a bobble hat in the Old Trafford nets in front of basically no-one.

This is no comment on Curran, who must (and should) be having a fine old time in India. It is just an observation that despite how much the cricket world has changed, Anderson is still somehow committed to doing the same things he’s been doing for 20-odd years because he likes how that works out for him.

We remember going down to watch Lancashire one April in the early 2000s, back when words like ‘promising’ and ‘raw’ were being deployed in reference to Anderson. Watching him open the bowling even back then, it felt like a small stage. He’d already developed a nice habit of taking five-fors and it just felt like he should really be playing in front of more people.

Now here we are in 2023 and Jimmy is bowling in the nets in a bloody bobble hat because he’s mad-keen on being at his best for his 180th Test match.

They call it the hard yards and surely they only get harder.

Physically harder is one thing – that’s more easily manageable – but ageing also tends to bring with it diminishing emotional returns when you’re fundamentally repeating the same stuff.

Again, for most of us, that’s manageable. That tendency is what drives us to find and experience new things. You have to work that much harder to find new aspects of old things – particularly when specific elements of those old things maybe aren’t quite so obviously fun the 23rd time around.

Like bowling in a bobble hat in the Old Trafford nets.

Just to contextualise this a bit, have you spotted who’s in the background? That wiry grey-haired old coaching fella?

It’s Graham Onions.

Graham Onions who made his Test debut six years after Anderson. Graham Onions who is in fact two months younger than Anderson.

Graham Onions is still in cricket. Graham Onions is also a bit mad. Maybe if his back permitted, he’d still be bowling too.

We like this reaction after Anderson almost got a ‘wicket’…

… in the nets.

He just can’t help himself.

And nor can we.

Even if your appetite for cricket doesn’t quite match Anderson’s – and it almost certainly doesn’t – you will still be able to recognise the madness that drives him. Whether you’re an England fan or not, James Anderson is one of us.

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  1. A lovely, if rather melancholic and existential, piece.

    I’m heading to what must now be known as the ‘Cooper Associates County Ground’ tomorrow. Merry Cricket Season Eve to all.

  2. That’s an excellent photo of Onions. Wiley old greybeard that he is. Stick him in a smart suit and I reckon he could spend his days popping up in ad breaks, trying to sell us coffee.

  3. Coincidentally, I have recently written up our Heavy Rollers visit to Edgbaston in 2004, at which we witnessed James Anderson live for the first time.


    If you look closely at Charley The Gent’s photo of Andy Flintoff walking off with a daddy hundred to his name on day two, you can see a young James Anderson going out to do that cricketing thing he likes least: bat. That was our first live sighting of him.

    1. Also from that 2004 Edgbaston experience, you can see our first ever Heavy Roller’s shirt, which, in one of the pictures within the article below, you can see me sporting in March 2023:


      That shirt is another garment of mine that is older than Rehan Ahmed, I realise. I remark in that piece that the garment seems to be weathering a bit better than me, but judging from my photo and that of Graham Onions (twenty years my junior) I think I might be weathering a bit better than Onions.

    2. “We witnessed James Anderson live for the first time.”

      Dancing and laughing and finally living.

      1. Was he doing a tight 15 minutes of stand-up? Or a solo acoustic set made up of Hotel California, Hit Me Baby One More Time and an original composition?

      2. It was stand up comedy in a way. England were already well north of 500 when Jimmy entered the arena at 8 down, ahead of Harmy, to join Matthew Hoggard.

        Jimmy agonised his way to 2 off 13 balls before Omari Banks put Jimmy out of his misery by castling him with a straight ball. The partnership was 3 runs off 21 ballls. Contre-Baz-ball.

        Then Harmy walloped 31 off 18 balls in a Baz-ball stylee before England declared.


        I’m glad you two asked that question.

  4. I had one of those novelty celebrity messages done by Henry Blofeld for my cricket watching sidekick’s 50th birthday. As expected he do an excellent job of blustering charm, self parody and bonhomie.
    Amongst the other current and former cricketers on cameo.com by far the cheapest was Graham Onions. He’ll do you a personalised message for twelve quid.

    1. Looks like Stuart Meaker’s undercutting him now (£8).

      If you’ve an eye for a bargain, Thommo looks pretty good value at £28.

      Not convinced Peter Hatzoglou has got his pricing right though (£64).

  5. Match report, Somerset v Warwickshire.

    The day dawned bright, clear and sunny.
    I was halfway to Taunton when the club’s press officer called.
    ‘No play today. Puddles on the outfield.’

    1. Strikes us that the only thing missing was cricket and so really there is no justification for such a short match report on King Cricket.

  6. Match report, Somerset v Warwickshire, day two.

    The day dawned bright, clear and sunny. The umpires inspected. Midday start.
    I climbed into my car, buzzing with delayed excitement.
    Flat battery.

    1. Not at the ground today, but following in a Cricinfo stylee.

      The thrill of seeing that Middlesex rolled Essex for under 266 after they were 162/3 overnight, mitigated by Middlesex landing in a most unlikely place off 2 balls: 2/2 – by dint of a no-ball between the two early wickets.

      Now 2/3 as I type. “Oh dear” as Daisy has just put it.

      1. The right-hand column of the Middlesex scorecard now looks like an exclamation from Kenneth Williams.


      2. Ah, now 4/4 off 4 overs. All four runs by dint of no-balls. Still nothing from the batsmen. We’re in record setting territory and not in a good way.

  7. I’m enjoying the low key first few days on YouTube from Old T, and they’ve shown Anderson in bobble hat bowling. Trying to explain why this is all so great – Anderson, CChamp day one etc) to my new colleague, (he’s non-English, non-cricketing) is very hard.

    Lovely read.

    1. Puntastic.

      Injured while batting? Send for a runner Bean
      Dismissed early? Bean and gone
      Long hot day in the field? Baked Bean
      Suffering from a urinary infection? Kidney Bean

      1. If England’s top order misery continues, you can imagine the tabloid headline: “England’s Batting In Disarray, So Hapless Selectors Call Up Mr Bean”.

        And if only there were a Roses match this spring, apropos the Jimmy Anderson photo above, “Mr Beany verses Mr Bean”.

  8. I’ve pretty much given up all hope for the CC already, but I see Rishi Patel just got his maiden century, so that’s nice.

      1. Things you love to see: Leicestershire winning.

        Things you love to see part 2: Yorkshire losing.

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