At the age of 35, England’s James Anderson is well into the twilight of his career, achieving just about everything there is to achieve at Test level as a fast bowler. His career stats speaks for itself.
Becoming just the third fast bowler in Test history to take 500 Test wickets, joining Australia’s Glenn McGrath (563) and West Indies’ Courtney Walsh (519), Anderson is becoming recognised as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all-time.Embed from Getty Images
He is on course to eclipse McGrath’s fast bowling record mark of 563 Test wickets and could reach the 600-wicket mark by the time his career comes to end, which he’s likely to achieve, considering he’s recently been quoted saying, “I could play Test cricket for another four years”.
But while he’s been apart of some great Ashes triumphs in recent times, his bowling statistics against Australia pale in comparison to his overall career statistics.
From his 129 Test matches, Anderson has a very impressive Test record of 506 wickets @ 27.39 which includes 24 five-wicket hauls.
However, his 26 Test matches against Australia isn’t so impressive, taking 87 wickets @ 35.87 with just four five-wicket hauls. Furthermore, his 13 Test matches in Australia is even less impressive, taking just 43 wickets @ 38.44 which includes no five-wicket hauls.
To continue the focus on his record here in Australia, in the 2006-07 Ashes series, he played three Test matches for just five wickets @ 82.59. The 2010-11 Ashes series was easily his most successful tour to Australia and although he didn’t set the world on fire, he was very consistent, playing all 5 Tests and was England’s leading wicket taker with 24 wickets @ 26.04. But, he endured another horror tour in the 2013-14 Ashes series, playing all five Tests and taking just 14 wickets @ 43.92.
In his most recent tour down under, he looked like a man who wasn’t in control of his own emotions. It must of been a nightmare opposing Mitchell Johnson, as he terrorised and dismantled his team, forcing some teammates to flee home and other teammates to retire mid-series.
He seemed to lack confidence, calmness, focus and motivation as Australia went on to clean sweep England 5-nil. There is no way he would have forgotten and surely those nightmares of 2013-14 will have him motivated like never before.
There have been a few players who have risen to ‘greatness’ by cementing themselves into Ashes folklore with performances that were nothing short of miraculous. Most recently we’ve had Andrew Flintoff’s inspirational all-round performance in 2005 which helped England recapture the Ashes for the first time in 19 years, Ricky Ponting’s revenge mission in 2006-07 and Mitchell Johnson’s total and utter destruction in 2013-14.Embed from Getty Images
England will tour with a strong bowling line-up but only two genuine world class batsmen (Cook and Root) and could potentially be without star all-rounder Ben Stokes. So it’s clear that England’s weakness is their batting, therefore they’ll need to perform strongly with the ball to give themselves a chance of retaining the Ashes.
Anderson must see this as an opportunity to create his own Ashes legacy by steering England to a rare series victory in Australia, leading from the front with his own bowling performance and leadership.
He will never have a better opportunity than this upcoming Ashes series against an Australian batting line-up which is, fair to say, not as experienced and not as potent as it has been on previous Ashes tours. But can he do it? Does he have what it takes?
A genuine swing bowler, he can swing it both ways from over-the-wicket or around-the-wicket, whether its orthodox swing or reverse swing. But for a player who dominates with the duke ball in swing friendly conditions in England, why has struggled using the kookaburra ball in Australian conditions? Why has he failed to adapt? What does he need to do differently?
If we are to consider James Anderson as an all-time great, then that’s what he needs to figure out.
Featured Image: Dan Heap