The Oval Test will always be remembered for Alastair Cook’s fitting farewell century and the script could not have been written better with James Anderson ending the series and summer by becoming the most successful fast bowler of all time.
James Anderson achieved this feat when he dismissed Mohammad Shami in the final hour on Day 5 to win the match and clinch the series 4-1. With 564 victims to his name Anderson surpassed the Australian great Glenn McGrath and now leads the pantheon of pace, sitting behind the spin trio of Murali, Warne and Kumble.
Player Matches Wickets
Muttiah Muralitharan 133 800
Shane Warne 145 708
Anil Kumble 132 619
James Anderson 143 564
Glenn McGrath 124 563
Courtney Walsh 132 519
Watching James Anderson swinging the ball is a thing of beauty. It is equivalent to Tiger Woods precise recovery shots on the golf course, David Beckham curling free kicks leaving goalkeepers stunned. The biggest challenge in facing Muralitharan was the sheer quandary of what to expect, where the ball is going to turn but the marvel of Anderson is that opposition batsmen know what they are going to be dished; a barrage of outswingers followed by an inswinger but still they have no answers. There is always an air of inevitably that Anderson will get you.
On the fourth evening of the Oval Test, Anderson’s wizardry was on display once again when he trapped Shikhar Dhawan with a delivery that swung in followed by the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara, three balls later to break Indian backs in pursuit of 464.
Keeping in mind all his skill and tactical prowess, Anderson real asset has been his longevity. At 36, been the leader of the attack for more than a decade now is no joke. Before the start of the series, there were talks about him and Broad not lasting the whole series. This is where his preparations before the series, mental toughness and knowledge about his body has played a huge role. Anderson took a six-week long rest to prepare for the five-match series playing a solitary county game for Lancashire against Yorkshire in July. In a press conference, England’s coach Trevor Bayliss lauded Anderson’s work ethic.
“I don’t think there’s any age — he keeps surprising everyone,” said Bayliss. “As long as he keeps his body fit there’s no reason why he can’t go on for three or four years,” he added of Anderson, who has been managing a shoulder injury.
“A lot of other bowlers do start to drop off in their mid-30s or so. It’s only the very, very best that are able to keep it going. I think he’s showing that he is the very, very best.”
Anderson last played an ODI for England in March 2015 and since then his Test performance has gone up. In 44 Tests since then, he has taken 184 wickets at an average of 20.48. Since the start of 2017, the numbers have been even better with him taking 97 scalps in 21 matches at 19.
It would be unfair not to mention Stuart Broad here, Anderson’s new-ball partner for a decade. The duo has formed the most formidable and potent bowling partnership in the modern game. Broad took the prized wicket of Virat Kohli in the second innings after Anderson’s early inroads. By the end of the Test, Stuart Broad had surpassed Sir Richard Hadlee on the list of all-time wicket-takers and currently sits at number 8 with 433 scalps in the all-time rankings just one behind Kapil Dev.
Keeping in mind Anderson’s recent statistics and his hunger to succeed there is no telling where his wicket tally will end up but one thing is for sure he has certainly cemented his place as one of the greatest to grace this game. Anderson’s next test assignment will see him touring Sri Lanka in November, plenty of time for him to rest his problematic shoulder after a long series. His presence would be vital if England want to stand a chance on those flat, dusty pitches.