On Friday 17th April 2015, James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson snared his 384th Test match victim to surpass the legendary Sir Ian Botham and become England’s leading wicket-taker of all time.
Having found the edge of Danesh Ramdin’s bat, the safe hands of captain Alastair Cook did the rest and the ‘Burnley Express’ had written his own piece of sporting history.
Fittingly, this momentous landmark was reached in Anderson’s 100th Test – some 12 years after his first against Zimbabwe back in 2003.
Few could have predicted at that time, even after witnessing his impressive debut, that this lively Lancastrian would go on to become ‘the King of Swing’ and one of the most fearsome strike bowlers England has ever produced.
That is a standing he now enjoys, though, and one – at the age of 32 - he should be looking to cement over the years to come.
There has been talk of a 500-wicket haul, and why not? Here is a man who has flourished with a Duke in hand at venues such as Trent Bridge, but has also shown himself to be more than capable with the Kookaburra in Australia and the subcontinent SG in India.
What, though, makes Anderson so special and almost unique in his chosen profession?
We at HITC Sport decided to put that question to a former Ashes-winning skipper during a recent phone interview.
Mike Gatting, speaking as he penned a congratulation message to Anderson as part of Slazenger’s celebratory flag tour, said: “Certainly, from my point of view, to get the wickets he’s got, the one unique thing is that he stays fit. A bit like Ian Botham and all of the other great bowlers, you have to stay fit to take wickets, learn your trade and have that passion and pride. It’s hard work being a fast bowler, so if you put all of those things together, you’ll probably find yourself a fine fast bowler. Jimmy has got a long way to go yet, I think, maybe another two or three years, so he could well get up to 500-wicket mark because he is that passionate, prepared to work hard and he’s a very skilful bowler now.
“He’s very fit, prepared to bowl and very skilful at what he does and he still seems to have that passion to play the game, which, as a fast bowler, if you can maintain that, then you’ll do very, very well in the game.”
He added on Anderson’s all-round game and tactical ability: “You can’t get as many wickets as he has without doing it around the world and it’s been fantastic to see him grow as a bowler as well as a leader of the attack and keep himself fit to always be there. It’s great as a captain to be able to throw the ball to someone and know that you’ll get a decent spell – it’s going to be one side of the wicket, it’s going to be a passionate spell, he’s going to be there for you, he’ll sum up the wicket quickly, sum up the player and bowl a way to try and get him out.
“To go past someone like Sir Ian Botham, I’m sure that will rank very highly in his career. I’m sure that moment...it will be great to have done it, but also to have got the monkey off his back. He can now go on and really enjoy it. He is a very fine bowler and he can now gone on and see how many he can get. I think that will drive him now. He still seems to enjoy it, which is fantastic.”
Anderson now stands alone as England’s most devastating weapon with a new ball in hand – with the next opportunity to add to his tally arriving later today in Grenada against the West Indies – but how does he compare to the greats of the past – the Bothams and the Fred Truemans of this world?
Gatting said: “It’s great to have a strike bowler that can take wickets regularly. Being able to swing the ball is a great ability and if you look at a lot of the great fast bowlers – your Truemans, your Bothams and now Anderson – they all swung the ball. Great players can do something with the ball. You have the pace of the (Andy) Roberts, the (Michael) Holdings, the (Malcom) Marshalls, but you need to do something with it. Jimmy has worked very hard. But it’s not just been in England, it’s been overseas as well. It’s not just about doing it in England, where the ball swings and the wickets are more conducive, it’s learning how to ball on flatter wickets, reverse swing, slower balls, all sorts of things, and that ability to be persistent and knowing where the ball is going. That is a great asset as well.”
How Anderson and England progress from here remains to be seen, with there a series to be won in the Caribbean, with wickets and runs to be had, before attention turns to the summer and testing encounters with New Zealand and old adversaries Australia.
Former MCC President Mike Gatting was signing Slazenger’s ‘Congratulations Jimmy’ flag which will be touring the country this week. Slazenger is celebrating Jimmy Anderson becoming England’s all time leading test wicker by giving 10% off its entire cricket range. Visit store.slazenger.com and follow @SlazengerSport for more details.