Over 8.6. James Anderson to Dean Elgar
Anderson angles one across the South African opener, who accepts the invite for the drive but skews it to backward point where Liam Dawson takes a blinder.
These aren't mere random commentary lines from the second Test between England and South Africa at Trent Bridge. This wicket marked James Anderson's 300th Test wicket on English soil, making him the first fast bowler in the history of the game to take 300 wickets at home. The only others in this elite club are Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble as shown in the table. The fact that Anderson trumps the likes of Glenn McGrath, Dale Steyn and Dennis Lillee in this regard is testimony to his immaculate skills.
Michael Clarke, the former Australian skipper, went up to Anderson during a heated Ashes series and asked him to be ready for a broken elbow. The ever respectable Rahul Dravid had complaints about Anderson's behaviour. Even the usually calm MS Dhoni was irked by Anderson's constant jabs at Ravindra Jadeja at Trent Bridge the last time India toured. That is Anderson for you, grumpy, mouthful, in your face and irritating but he has what most fast bowlers do not have — an irresistable ability to generate outswing on any surface, any conditions and against the best.
It is this uncanny ability that makes Anderson a constant threat anywhere in the world. The prickly, misbehaving England seamer has a large number of weapons in his arsenal with his stock delivery being the out-swinger. Anderson can even go back to reverse swing when the ball gets old. To summarise, he has every skill that is expected from a fast bowler. The guy can create magic on a red cherry and has done just that in his 14-year-long career.
When you watch him bowl, there is this little feeling inside that he is overbalancing and falling over after his run-up. But like his different attitude, it is one trait that has remained intact over the years since his debut. Although it seems like he is a magician weaving his magic, Anderson goes into every game with a definite plan up his sleeve for each batsman.
It could be this planning that has made him one of the best fast bowlers of his generation. That and his eye-catching skills with the ball make him a favourite of cricket analysts and commentators. The manner in which he holds a split finger on damp pitches to make the ball seam is something which is widely spoken about.
Despite his calm demeanor outside the cricket field, Anderson is a fiery character on the field. One can recall a video where Mitchell Johnson sledges him from the non-striker's end asking if he is struggling to get wickets. Anderson does not respond with words but uproots a wicket the very next ball, silencing the Australian seamer for good.
That is what Anderson has done through his career. He has silenced his critics with his incredible on-field performances. He turned up for England at a time when their fans were obsessed with Darren Gough and his side-on skiddish action. High on talent and low on numbers, Anderson delivered consistently to arguably step over as England's best ever fast bowler. Or so would the numbers suggest.
With 471 wickets in 124 Tests at an average of 28.53, a strike rate of 57.5, 21 five-wicket hauls and three 10-wicket hauls, Anderson has numbers that compete extremely well with the best in the business. The next best, Ian Botham, has just 383 wickets with Anderson's trusted opening partner, Stuart Broad, closing in on him with 373.
Broad and Anderson have been England’s most successful pair in terms of numbers. The duo have been architects of quite a few of England's best performances in home soil. Their numbers and consistency are incredible and has played a vital factor in England remaining a top team in Test cricket.
Known for heavily relying on overcast conditions and the pitch in the early half of his career, Anderson developed his skills to not only survive but revel on any surface. More than 50 percent of his wickets are of top five batsmen, highlighting his effectiveness in destroying batting orders.
The fifer at Trent Bridge against Proteas
Nothing underlines his importance in the team as his riveting spell against the Proteas in the second Test of the four-match series at Trent Bridge. On Day 1, his battle with Hashim Amla was one of the highlights of the day. Anderson knew that Amla was the lynchpin of the Proteas line-up and kept probing the defence of the veteran batsman. He mixed his outswingers and inswingers with immaculate precision, barely letting Amla off the hook. He eventually fell to the pressure, but Anderson would garner little credit from the wicket as he was in no way involved as per the scoreboard.
While the wicket column was unkind to the England seamer on Day 1, he had his tails up on Day 2, picking out the remaining four wickets in the South African line-up within 38 balls. He was scintillating against the lower order and prized them out in no time on Saturday. His spell on Day 2 at the end of the Proteas innings read 3.2-2-4-4.
On top of the world
Since 2010, Anderson is the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, edging ahead of Rangana Herath, Stuart Broad and Ravichandran Ashwin. To be precise, the England seamer has 315 wickets in 78 Tests since May 2010 compared to Herath’s 307 and Broad’s 290. He has 13 five-wicket hauls during this period, the joint best among fast bowlers alongside Dale Steyn.
His 300 wickets at home, the best among any fast bowler in Test history, has come at a mind boggling rate. He has 17 five-wicket hauls and given the way he has been bowling of late, that number is on an upward curve. He is 'petulant’ and unacceptable at times with his on-field behaviour but that is just passion seeping through at times. It happens only with fighters, and Anderson is a shining example of one.