Jimmy Anderson backed by Ian Botham to claim England's Test record
Legendary all-rounder confident fast bowler will build on breaking overall wickets mark
On the surface it is hardly much of a record. Scratch a little deeper and its qualities of skill, endurance and perseverance begin to show in all their glory.
By removing the New Zealand opener B J Watling with a peach of a late in-swinger in the first one-day international, Jimmy Anderson became England's leading wicket-taker in international cricket. There may have been more illustrious victims on the way but the ball, exhibiting a mastery of control and late movement, would have done for them as well.
Anderson has taken his tally to 529 – 288 in Tests, 223 in ODIs and 18 in Twenty20s – to pass the total of 528 – 383 in Tests, 145 in ODIs, none in T20 which did not exist then – set by Ian Botham 21 years ago. The great all-rounder, Sir Ian now of course, was the first to buy Anderson a celebratory glass, the achievement not being dulled by the fact that England managed to muck up the match, which they lost by three wickets.
Although first among England bowlers overall, Anderson is not top of any of the lists for a particular format of the game. He is a mere 23rd in the all-comers' combined chart, with Malcolm Marshall immediately ahead of him. There is a litany of other modern cricketers beyond that from Imran Khan, through Chaminda Vaas, Glenn McGrath and right up to Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, though no ancient ones. There is much more international cricket now.
That it has taken since August 1992, when Rameez Raja of Pakistan became Botham's last victim, partly reflects a lack of constancy in selection in the early part of the period and a comparative shortage of one-day internationals for England bowlers.
Anderson began bowling for England in December 2002, 10 years after Botham's retirement. His first wicket was that of Adam Gilchrist whom he bowled for 124. After a swift rise there was a lull when his action was remodelled at the insistence of England. Only when it returned to its roots did he begin to fulfil his rich potential.
There is no question that Anderson is revered these days. Botham was perfectly happy to be overtaken by such a skilful performer and Chris Woakes, one of the new brigade, explained yesterday what an inspiration he is.
"His communication on the field is fantastic and I aspire to play the game like him," said Woakes. "He's brilliant in terms of letting his knowledge out and letting guys know what he's thinking, not just on the field but off it too and in the nets.
"In the first match against New Zealand for instance he opened the bowling and got first use of that new ball so he figures out the best way to bowl on that wicket. He felt that, particularly before the lights took effect, cross and wobble seamers were very useful and he found it worked well up front. We adapted that from then on."
Woakes feels that he is playing alongside one of the great bowlers which might be pushing it a bit since Anderson does not average under 30 a wicket in either Tests or ODIs (Botham's bowling averages, respectively, were 28.40 and 28.54). But Anderson is undoubtedly a motivated and shrewd operator, in this era perhaps behind only Dale Steyn of South Africa, who, incidentally, has 462 international wickets.
"Jimmy's a role model," said Woakes. "He's still very young and I'm sure there are many records he's going to break." At 30, Anderson has three, perhaps four years left at the top. His skill at manipulating the ball and assessing conditions is growing by the match.
There was a tingle of anticipation at his return to the side on Sunday, having been rested since the Test series, and there are few players of whom that can be said. He always looks in control of the ball, and there are few of whom that can be said either. Botham seems fairly confident, even optimistic as one old swing bowler appreciating another, that he will one day take his English Test record as well. Anderson trails by 95 wickets at present.
Were he to take four wickets a match – his average haul is slightly under – he would need to play another 24 Tests to move ahead of Botham's mark. That would take Anderson until the spring of 2015 when England are due to play a three-match series in the West Indies, but only then if he plays in all the Tests from now on, which is highly improbable given England's rotation policy. Anderson has already displayed his grouchiness once when rested for a home Test last summer.
It is a pleasure to watch him bowl and it is remarkable that he has stayed so relatively injury-free, since the reason for remodelling his action all those years ago stemmed from fears that his original method would severely damage his back.
Botham, slapping his successor on the back, genuinely pleased, said: "He's done brilliantly and deserves it. It might take him a little longer to get as many runs."
Second ODI: match details
New Zealand (probable): B J Watling, H D Rutherford, K S Williamson, L R P L Taylor, G D Elliott, B B McCullum, J E C Franklin, N L McCullum, A M Ellis, K D Mills, T G Southee.
England (probable): A N Cook, I R Bell, I J L Trott, J E Root, E J G Morgan, J C Buttler, C R Woakes, S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn, J M Anderson.
Match starts: 1am Wednesday.
England's best: top wicket-takers
Test ODI T20 Total
James Anderson 288 223 18 529
Sir Ian Botham 383 145 n/a 528
Darren Gough 229 235 3 467
Bob Willis 325 80 n/a 405
Andrew Flintoff 226 169 5 400
Stuart Broad 172 149 55 376
Graeme Swann 212 99 51 362
Derek Underwood 297 32 n/a 329
Fred Trueman 307 n/a n/a 307
Andy Caddick 234 69 n/a 303
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