England will start the summer with a two-Test series against New Zealand commencing at Lord’s from the 2nd of June. One of the statistical milestones to watch out for during the series revolves around England’s highest wicket-taker in Test cricket - James Andersson. The King of Swing is just 8 wickets short of becoming the first English fast bowler in 16 years to reach the landmark of 1000 first class wickets.
Anderson has picked 614 wickets in 160 Tests (297 innings) at an impressive average of 26.46 and strike rate of 55.9 including 30 five-wicket hauls in an innings and three 10 wicket hauls in a match in what has been a glorious career.
In first-class cricket, he has bagged a whopping 992 wickets in 259 matches at an average of 24.72 and strike rate of 52 including 50 fifers and 6 ten-wicket hauls in a match.
He has been in top-notch form with the ball in Test cricket since 2020 picking 37 wickets in 10 matches at an average of 17.4 and strike rate of 47.8. While he has lost a yard or two in pace, he has more than adequately made up for that with his experience, craft and ability to swing and reverse swing the red ball. Two of his highest impact performances came in Asia during this period - 6-40 against Sri Lanka in Galle and 3-17 against India in Chennai - in both these performances he tormented the batsmen with his late swing and brilliant use of the seam.
With the two-Test series against New Zealand scheduled for early summer, the conditions are expected suit Anderson and he has the ability to run through the New Zealand side at both Lord’s and Edgbaston, which would mean that he may well get the 8 wickets he needs to become the first bowler in the world to reach to the magical mark of 1000 first-class wickets after Dinuka Hettiarachchi in 2019.
Hettiarachchi - a slow left-arm orthodox bowler who played one Test for Sri Lanka back in 2001, has a staggering first-class record in which he bagged 1000 wickets in 234 matches at an average of 23.54. He achieved the feat playing for Police Sports Club against Karun in the Premier League Tournament Tier B in Sri Lanka in 2019 when he returned with six wickets in the match.
The last prominent bowler to reach the landmark was Rangana Herath in 2017. The Sri Lankan great reached the milestone when he dismissed Mustafizur Rahman in Bangladesh’s first innings in Colombo in 2017.
Andrew Caddick was the last England pacer to reach the milestone way back in 2005.
But, should Anderson achieve the feat during the series against New Zealand, he may well remain the last fast bowler to do so for some decades to come. The demands of an international schedule, the advent of T20 cricket and different leagues across the world and the general wear and tear of fast bowlers will not allow one from today’s generation to reach close to the landmark.
Last year he became the first fast bowler to reach the 600-Club in Test cricket during the third Test against Pakistan in Southampton in August. He is now just six shy of overtaking Anil Kumble’s record of 619 Test wickets and will only have the two wizards Muttial Muralitharan and Shane Warne ahead of him on the all-time list should he break the Indian leggie’s record.
Anderson’s greatest attribute has been his stunning fitness and longevity. Not only has his first-class career spanned for 19 years starting from 2002, but he has sustained his level of excellence for most part of this illustrious journey.
Anderson will equal Alastair Cook’s record of maximum Test matches for England when he steps out at Lord’s on the 2nd of June. For a fast bowler to have represented the country in 160 Tests (Cook played 161) is a testimony of his physical fitness, mental endurance, will, desire and hardwork.
It does not come as a surprise that he is the only ‘pure’ fast bowler in the top 10 list of longevity (according to number of matches played) in Test cricket. The list is dominated by batsmen and includes one all-rounder - Jacques Kallis. Stuart Broad with 146 matches follows at number 12. The next fast bowler on the list is Courtney Walsh with 132 Tests.
The wear and tear for a fast bowler is much faster and more severe than a spinner or batsman in Test cricket - such is the nature of their job - and in that light Anderson’s feat is quite outstanding.
Almost 39, Anderson is as fit as a fiddle and raring to go with the red Dukes ball in his hand for England.
Eight more dismissals and a glorious milestone awaits the legendary pacer.