James Anderson joined the exclusive 500-wicket club in Test cricket at Lord’s on Friday (September 8), and said later that he hoped to get “somewhere near” Glenn McGrath’s tally of 563 before wrapping up.
Anderson, 35, became the first England bowler to the landmark and just the sixth in history when, having started the second Windies innings with 499 Test wickets against his name, he clean bowled Kraigg Brathwaite.
That made him just the third paceman to take 500 Test wickets after McGrath and Courtney Walsh, who ended with 519 after becoming the first bowler – pacer or spinner – to get to the 500-wicket mark. The top three in the list are all spinners: Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Shane Warne (708) and Anil Kumble (619).
“I’m just trying to stay fit and stay on the field,” Anderson told Sky Sports after stumps. “I’m loving playing cricket at the moment. I just want to keep playing as long as possible. If I keep on playing for the next couple of years I might get somewhere near (McGrath’s tally).”
After dismissing Brathwaite, Anderson produced a near unplayable delivery to bowl Kieran Powell for 45, the ball spearing into the left-hander only to cut away and clip the top of off stump.
West Indies were 93 for 3 – just 22 runs ahead – when play ended on a rain-hit second day; the series is level at 1-1. Anderson had stumps figures of 2 for 17 from nine overs.
Having been kept waiting for the 500th wicket since going wicketless in the second innings of Windies’ series-levelling win at Headingley, Anderson said his main emotion at breaking the barrier was one of relief. “It’s a bit surreal,” said Anderson. “I’m more relieved to get to get it out of the way, to be honest.”
Anderson, who took his first Test wicket on debut against Zimbabwe at Lord’s in 2003, added, “It was an amazing ovation. It’s such a special place for me – to get my first wicket and my 500th here is something that will live with me for a long time.
“I’ve got the ball – it’s got a massive dent in it from where it hit the stumps. We tried to carry on with it but it was almost split down the middle so we had to change it.”
“I’m just trying to stay fit and stay on the field. I’m loving playing cricket at the moment. I just want to keep playing as long as possible. If I keep on playing for the next couple of years I might get somewhere near (McGrath’s tally).”
Over the years, Anderson has established himself as England’s No. 1 pacer, but his career has been far from one smooth upward curve.
He had to wait to become established at the Test level, missing England’s 2005 Ashes triumph after being unable to force his way into the pace attack of Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones.
Relegated to the role of net bowler with England, he suffered a stress fracture in 2006. But after having forced his way back in, his England career blossomed.
“There were some dark times,” recalled Anderson. “I got injured, left out of the side. It just made me more determined to improve. I knew I had some skills. I used to be able to bowl fast! I just tried to develop that and get back out there.”
Nasser Hussain, Anderson’s first England captain who was calling the game on Sky when Brathwaite was bowled, paid tribute to an “incredible talent”.
“He was a boy from nowhere,” said Hussain. “He came in after another disaster of an Ashes tour and he was like a breath of fresh air. He was so different from anything I’d seen before.
“I didn’t know him then and I don’t really know him now, to be honest, but he’s an incredible talent. What we see is the end product. What we don’t see is what we don’t see – those years when he had to put out the cones in 2004-05 for that bowling attack, the injuries he’s had and all the pain he’s gone through.
“He won’t tell you much about it because he never does but he’s been a credit to his country.”