What we got from working with James Anderson

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James Anderson perfects ball levitation

They always say of Twenty20 cricket that it’s ideal for modern lifestyles because we’re all so busy these days, as if everyone’s got oh-so-many important things to do all the time and all those labour-saving devices have had no impact. It’s probably true though. We are busier. We’re busy watching Test cricket because they constrict entire series into little more than a fortnight so that we have no time for anything else.

This is our way of saying that we have to write about James Anderson’s England Test wicket record today because the next Test starts in a few hours. No time to mull things over. No time to reflect. We’re still chewing over the first Test, but already the plate’s being whisked away and replaced with the next course.

So Jimmy then?

The truth is, we have very little to offer. We’ve been writing about James Anderson fairly regularly for nigh-on a decade now, so we don’t have a huge amount to add. Just as you’re only really one day older than yesterday on your birthday – same as every other day – so Jimmy’s taken just one more wicket, even if it did take him past Beefy.

Who he went past is probably the most meaningful gauge of what it means to have become England’s top Test wicket-taker. Ian Botham was not like other England cricketers. He was a comic book hero who performed outrageous feats. Ask an Englishman who knows nothing of cricket to name an England cricketer and they will name Ian Botham. If you only know one cricketer, you know Ian Botham.

And Jimmy’s taken more wickets than him.

Several years ago

We’ve followed James Anderson’s career as closely as we’ve followed any career, right from his first-class debut. We claim no great insight here. It was just blind luck.

When he first appeared in county cricket, we were working with someone called James Anderson who also liked cricket and also followed Lancashire. As you might imagine, we both checked the scorecards religiously and joked about his progress. That progress was famously rapid.

We would have been behind him from then on anyway, but at some point shortly afterwards we saw him playing for Lancashire and he swung the ball and took wickets. We thought he was great. Perhaps this is hindsight, but within a year or so of that time, we can start testing our memories by comparing them against things we wrote on the internet. We wrote that he was great. But not only that. It seems we also wrote that he was magic.


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  1. Are you saying that the internet keeps all the stuff we write on it? Hell’s teeth! There’s all sorts of terrible stuff on their – insults to almost everyone I’ve ever come across, vivid descriptions of things that should be private, a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis, even examples of using the wrong spelling of “there” for weak ironic effect!

    Fortunately, my kids will never see any of this, because they would never choose to go on the internet. That’s why I’m happy for them to have unrestricted laptops in there bedrooms.

  2. Your Maj, I have a question. What’s your response to people who say that “Our Jimmy” can only swing the ball in home conditions? I’m sure there are a handful of examples of him doing otherwise, but are there more than a handful? It’s something I find it hard to respond to, especially when the WI opening bowlers are swinging it all over the place and Jimmy… isn’t, really.

    1. He’s certainly better in home conditions – but then most bowlers are. He still swings it overseas, but less regularly and not generally for as long. That doesn’t just reflect on his skill though. It’s also to do with the ball used and the weather.

      His cause in the current series probably isn’t helped by the fact that he’s being used as strike bowler, workhorse and partnership breaker. When you’re dealing in small margins, a big workload can certainly make a difference and he definitely looked better in the first innings than when he had 40-odd overs in his legs.

    2. For me his finest hour was in Australia during our 3-1 series win a few years ago. Bowled beautifully and winkled batsman out at all times, not just when the ball was new.

    3. it is accepted as a scientific fact that ball swings more when you pitch it up. But pitching it up means more chances for going for runs which we all know Jimmy hates giving them up

      James Anderson is a master at swinging both ways from length with great pace and control but these conditions are present only in UK. witness the mauling of Indian top order line-up like lambs to slaughter

      Anderson is the Harbhajan of Fast bowling (purely in terms of cricketing skills I mean – no reference to PushGate & MonkeyGate)

  3. Some high-quality ball levitation from Jimmy in the picture there.

    Also, I note that Lancs have caught whatever top-order malaise England had in the first Test, having twice been at Not Much for 3 (and, in fact, Not Much for 4).

  4. Can I go off on a random thought?

    I saw Chris Read on TV the other day, I was thinking what player still playing made his england debut earliest?

    1. Great question. The best we can come up with is Chris Read – which may reflect that we haven’t given it much thought.

      Wait, Trescothick maybe?

    2. I’m sure I mentioned Read in an earlier thread – the Chanderpaul one?

      Only England cricketer still playing that debuted in the last millennium. Due a recall?

    3. Chris Read played for England before most commentators did.

      I just got Statsguru to look up a list of England players who debuted in the late 1990s.

      Don’t ever, ever do that.

    4. I was there on the day of Chris Read’s début at Edgbaston. It was the day of my Edgbaston début also.

      I think you are right, Read being the earliest England débutante still playing.

      Is Dan Vettori the earliest international débutante still playing internationally?

    5. What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Ged? Shiv far outranks Dan as far as starting dates are concerned.

    6. Vettori’s retired anyway, no?

      Can’t help but notice a certain Balladeer all over Cricinfo’s text commentary right now…

    7. Shiv – strike a light. Out of sight out of mind…

      …what I mean when I say “out of sight” is that I was in the other room typing that comment on this board while he was batting. Indeed I think Shiv was dismissed while I was typing!

    8. By “all over”, Daneel, I presume you mean “made one post that was (a) controversial and (b) wrong”. So people picked up on it. In no time, my (user)name was mud. 🙁 Although TMS started talking about how Shiv might be too old as soon as I’d finished, so.

      Had no idea that Herath has been around for so long, though.

  5. I saw James Fosters name mentioned on the BBC, and I thought he may be close. He was but not close enough.

  6. Requesting a special Badger section for Cricinfo commentary please (along with the updates on Mark Wood’s imaginary horse). Today’s gem, about the Darren Bravo dismissal (from Alex Winter): “Sort of tried to run it down towards third man but not really, it was a flirt and the ball already had a boyfriend.”

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