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Recently, England spearhead James Anderson achieved two milestones. Firstly, he overtook Ian Botham’s tally of 383 Test wickets to become the record holder for most wickets held by an England bowler.
The second milestone was reaching 400 Test wickets. The Burnley-born swing bowler from Lancashire has had a great career to date and at 33, Anderson’s career is far from finished.
However, if a certain Australian bowler, by pure fantasy was an Englishman, would Anderson still be chasing the English record for most Test wickets.
The Australian bowler I’m referring to is Western Australia’s medium fast bowler from the 1980s, Terry Alderman. Alderman was known as the ‘king of swing’, whose off cutters and outswingers often caused the downfall of many batsman, particularly when conditions were suited to swing bowling.
Alderman made his debut Test series against England in England in the 1981 Ashes series. And what an entrance he made. Alderman took a phenomenal 42 wickets at an average of 21.26 over six Tests. His first Test wicket was the stubborn Yorkshire great Geoff Boycott.
Alderman formed a deadly bowling partnership with fellow sandgroper and Australian legend, Dennis Lillee. DK claimed 39 wickets at 22.30.
Between them, Alderman and Lillee grabbed 81 wickets (out of a possible 120) at an average of 21.76. Yet despite their best efforts, Australia lost the ’81 Ashes series 3-1 in remarkable circumstances, thanks mainly to an English allrounder by the name of Ian Botham. The series was to be known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’.
When Australia toured England in 1985, Alderman was a notable absentee, as he was participating in the rebel tour of South Africa and subsequently was banned from playing Test cricket for three years.
However, under captain Allan Border, Alderman was back in the Australian side for the 1989 Ashes series in the UK.
The swing bowler, who had a habit of smiling in his bowling run up, once again had a brilliant Ashes series.
He tormented the England batsmen with 41 wickets at a very low average of 17.36, which included a staggering 6 five-wicket hauls, and in the process, made a mess of Graham Gooch’s immediate Test career at the time. Australia won the ’89 Ashes series by obliterating England, 4-0.
Overall, in 12 Ashes Tests in England, the smiling assassin took 83 wickets at an excellent 19.33. Alderman’s overall Test career reads 170 wickets @ 27.15 from 41 matches.
Now imagine if Alderman played for England?
The overcast weather conditions and soft English pitches would have been heaven for the Western Australian.
Alderman’s medium fast stump to stump bowling and accuracy, would produce prodigious swing, where some of the deliveries were just unplayable. The only way the batsman would survive, is to play those unplayable deliveries late…..very late, hence the difficulty of survival.
As an ‘Englishman’, could Alderman have taken 40 wickets for every English summer for ten years or more? Maybe not, but you dare to fantasize. Imagine an England bowling attack in the early eighties of Willis, Botham and Alderman?
It might have been an attack that could’ve Tested the might of the West Indies. And Alderman may have become the first England bowler to reach 400 Test wickets and set an even loftier target for Anderson and co. to chase.
But we will never know.
When you fast forward to Australia’s current bowling line up, there is a lack of a genuine swing bowler to appease to the English conditions.
The two Mitchells, Johnson and Starc, are fast bowlers with a bit of waywardness from time to time, while Hazlewood is a tall bowler who bowls in the line and length type category.
While the rest of the squad consists of young injury-prone tear away fast bowler in Pat Cummins and an honest toiler in Peter Siddle.
Six years ago in 2009, there were high hopes for Tasmanian’s own swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus to have similar success like Alderman in the past. In that series he captured 22 wickets at 27.45. Solid, but not good enough, as England won the ’09 Ashes 2-1.
In that series, Hilfenhaus bowled with two much width, and bowled too much on both sides of the wicket. Didn’t bowl accurate stump to stump (which was Alderman’s trademark) to allow for more swing.
Perhaps in the future, Australia should pick South Australia’s outswing bowler Chadd Sayers.
In his overall first class career, Sayers has 129 wickets @ 24.69. Not bad considering he plays half of his cricket on a batting paradise like the Adelaide Oval.
In last year’s Shield season, Sayers, missed the second half of the season due to an inflammation of his left ankle which required surgery. That was a setback for Sayers with regards to a possible Ashes selection.
Australia needs to find another Terry Alderman in order to have future success in the old dart. He doesn’t need to be a quick bowler. But someone who is accurate and intelligent enough to take advantage of any helpful conditions.
England may be proud of Anderson, but Australian cricket fans should not take for granted what Alderman has achieved in his career.
If anything, we are grateful that Alderman was an Australian.