Anderson’s chance to solidify himself as all-time great

Adam Hayward Roar Pro

By Adam Hayward, Adam Hayward is a Roar Pro


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    At the age of 35, England’s James Anderson is well into the twilight of his career, achieving just about everything there is to achieve at Test level as a fast bowler. His career stats speaks for itself.

    Becoming just the third fast bowler in Test history to take 500 Test wickets, joining Australia’s Glenn McGrath (563) and West Indies’ Courtney Walsh (519), Anderson is becoming recognised as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all-time.

    He is on course to eclipse McGrath’s fast bowling record mark of 563 Test wickets and could reach the 600-wicket mark by the time his career comes to end, which he’s likely to achieve, considering he’s recently been quoted saying, “I could play Test cricket for another four years”.

    But while he’s been apart of some great Ashes triumphs in recent times, his bowling statistics against Australia pale in comparison to his overall career statistics. 

    From his 129 Test matches, Anderson has a very impressive Test record of 506 wickets @ 27.39 which includes 24 five-wicket hauls.

    However, his 26 Test matches against Australia isn’t so impressive, taking 87 wickets @ 35.87 with just four five-wicket hauls. Furthermore, his 13 Test matches in Australia is even less impressive, taking just 43 wickets @ 38.44 which includes no five-wicket hauls. 

    To continue the focus on his record here in Australia, in the 2006-07 Ashes series, he played three Test matches for just five wickets @ 82.59. The 2010-11 Ashes series was easily his most successful tour to Australia and although he didn’t set the world on fire, he was very consistent, playing all 5 Tests and was England’s leading wicket taker with 24 wickets @ 26.04. But, he endured another horror tour in the 2013-14 Ashes series, playing all five Tests and taking just 14 wickets @ 43.92.

    England's James Anderson (centre) celebrates with Moeen Ali after taking the wicket of West Indies Devendra Bishoo during day two of the the second Investec Test match at Headingley, Leeds. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 26, 2017. See PA story CRICKET England. Photo credit should read: Nigel French/PA Wire.

    In his most recent tour down under, he looked like a man who wasn’t in control of his own emotions. It must of been a nightmare opposing Mitchell Johnson, as he terrorised and dismantled his team, forcing some teammates to flee home and other teammates to retire mid-series. 

    He seemed to lack confidence, calmness, focus and motivation as Australia went on to clean sweep England 5-nil. There is no way he would have forgotten and surely those nightmares of 2013-14 will have him motivated like never before. 

    The term ‘great’ usually gets thrown around a lot in cricket, but does the moniker fit for James Anderson? What defines ‘greatness’ in cricket? Is it stats alone? Or is it something more? 

    There have been a few players who have risen to ‘greatness’ by cementing themselves into Ashes folklore with performances that were nothing short of miraculous. Most recently we’ve had Andrew Flintoff’s inspirational all-round performance in 2005 which helped England recapture the Ashes for the first time in 19 years, Ricky Ponting’s revenge mission in 2006-07 and Mitchell Johnson’s total and utter destruction in 2013-14. 

    England will tour with a strong bowling line-up but only two genuine world class batsmen (Cook and Root) and could potentially be without star all-rounder Ben Stokes. So it’s clear that England’s weakness is their batting, therefore they’ll need to perform strongly with the ball to give themselves a chance of retaining the Ashes.

    Anderson must see this as an opportunity to create his own Ashes legacy by steering England to a rare series victory in Australia, leading from the front with his own bowling performance and leadership. 

    He will never have a better opportunity than this upcoming Ashes series against an Australian batting line-up which is, fair to say, not as experienced and not as potent as it has been on previous Ashes tours. But can he do it? Does he have what it takes?

    A genuine swing bowler, he can swing it both ways from over-the-wicket or around-the-wicket, whether its orthodox swing or reverse swing. But for a player who dominates with the duke ball in swing friendly conditions in England, why has struggled using the kookaburra ball in Australian conditions? Why has he failed to adapt? What does he need to do differently?

    If we are to consider James Anderson as an all-time great, then that’s what he needs to figure out.  

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    The Crowd Says (27)

    • October 22nd 2017 @ 6:45am
      peeeko said | October 22nd 2017 @ 6:45am | ! Report

      with an average of 27 he cant be an all time great. modern player longevity is the reason for his wicket total. only good in certain conditions

      • Roar Pro

        October 22nd 2017 @ 11:53am
        Adam Hayward said | October 22nd 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

        Perhaps you’re right. But wouldn’t his longevity be a testament in itself? To be good enough to succeed at the highest level for so long? To actually achieve the feat of 500 test wickets is an unbelievable effort is it not?

        In terms of bowling averages alone, if we compare him to some of Australia’s best fast bowlers of the past 30 years, he only averages 1 more run per wicket than Jason Gillespie, he’s equal with Terry Alderman and has a superior bowling average than Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Michael Kasperwicz, Andy Bichel, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc.

        He is by far the best English fast bowler that they’ve produced in the past 30 years. Again comparing averages, Anderson’s average is superior to Devon Malcolm, Phil DeFreitas, Angus Fraser, Dean Headley, Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick, Dominic Cork, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Stuart Broad.

        And as far as longevity goes, he’s easily outlasted every other bowler listed above.

        • Roar Guru

          October 22nd 2017 @ 1:42pm
          The Bush said | October 22nd 2017 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

          Depends on what great means. No bowler mentioned there is a great to me. Jason G was a fine bowler, but he’d struggle to make a thirds of Australia’s all time teams. I’d pick him over Anderson though.

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 5:06pm
          matth said | October 23rd 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

          Broad’s stats are very close to Anderson’s. We know there is a significant difference between Anderson’s home and away averages. How about Broad?

    • October 22nd 2017 @ 9:49am
      Paul said | October 22nd 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      Anderson’s basically a one trick wonder. He can and will take wickets in England but his record in other countries is less than ordinary. The only “tactic” he seems to have, once the shine has gone off the new ball, is bowling sort of a length, 2 feet outside off stump to a packed offside field – and sledging.

      English supporters will consider him to be a “great” but this simply shows how poor their fast bowlers have been over the years. Every country bar Zimbabwe has had a bowler at least as good as him in the past 30 years and many have had several. Just because they haven’t played as many Tests, these guys van be considered “great” bowlers, nor does his length of time in the game make Anderson a “great”.

      England has a strong bowling attack, eh? Anderson who can’t get wickets in Australia, Broad – fair enough, Woakes okay when he’s not injured and Moeen Ali who is completely unproven in Australia. Granted Australia has an inexperienced batting lineup but this is only an average attack as well.

      I suppose the bowling is strong when compared to the English batting. Shows how weak that is.

      • Roar Guru

        October 22nd 2017 @ 10:07am
        Anindya Dutta said | October 22nd 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        Absolutely true Paul. Outside favourable English conditions he is a shadow of his usual self. Longevity indeed skews the numbers. All credit to him for staying fit, but I wouldn’t pick him in a 22 of greats playing each other unless it happens to be in England. This summer, there will be tremendous pressure on him given Stokes’ absence and England’s limited bowling resources so I am guessing his average will once again be north of 30.

        • October 22nd 2017 @ 10:25am
          BurgyGreen said | October 22nd 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          Anderson wouldn’t even make the top 22 seam bowlers.

          • October 23rd 2017 @ 7:27am
            Targa said | October 23rd 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

            He wouldn’t make an all-time NZ side, let alone get close to making one from Australia, West Indies, South Africa or Pakistan. I actually think Stuart Broad is better.

            • October 23rd 2017 @ 11:22am
              Ouch said | October 23rd 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

              Me too mate. Broad is the English bowler i fear.

            • October 23rd 2017 @ 11:36am
              BurgyGreen said | October 23rd 2017 @ 11:36am | ! Report

              Completely agree. Broad just has these spells sometimes where he takes the pitch out of the equation and becomes an unstoppable wrecking ball. Anderson has never done that.

      • October 23rd 2017 @ 7:23am
        Targa said | October 23rd 2017 @ 7:23am | ! Report

        Heath Streak? Bowling average of 28 – with no support and bowling on lifeless Zimbabwean pitches. Anderson is better than any Bangladeshi bowlers

    • Roar Pro

      October 22nd 2017 @ 12:13pm
      Adam Hayward said | October 22nd 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

      If you take away career stats and rely simply on a players ability to make his mark on the game, do you have a great player?

      Andrew Flintoff’s career statistics aren’t really that flash. He doesn’t come close to comparing to the likes of Sobers or Kallis. But he’ll be remembered forever for what he achieved in the 2005 Ashes. He’s the reason Australian selectors became obsessed with picking all-rounders in the test side ever since. 12 years later and Cricket Australia are still trying to find our Flintoff.

      Mitch Johnson and Brett Lee had pretty similar careers, Brett Lee averaged 30 and Johnson 28. But they have strike rates that are among the best of all-time. Their ability to literally destroy batting line-ups and break bones is rarely matched. That’s what mad them great fast bowlers.

      Anderson isn’t a ‘great’ fast bowler in my opinion, but he has the potential and the opportunity to achieve something special this upcoming Ashes, to earn the right to be in the conversation of great fast bowlers, which is the point of my article.

      Thanks for reading and your feedback.

      • October 22nd 2017 @ 1:34pm
        George said | October 22nd 2017 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        Agree with all that apart from the Brett Lee bit – aside from his first year or two when he was very impressive, pitching the ball up, he was decidedly average thereafter and fortunate to play so many Tests.

        • Roar Guru

          October 23rd 2017 @ 2:33pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | October 23rd 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

          I wouldn’t classify Lee or Johnson as great fast bowlers either, largely because they didn’t have the consistency across their careers. At their best, they were awesome. Mitch Johnson at his best would be up there with any fast bowler to ever play the game, but he just played way too many games where he was so incredibly bad, that you could never call him an all-time great.

          With Brett, he was probably better than his overall career figures suggest. There were too many times he ended up being used as a stock bowler, bowling lots of overs, and times when he was brought back too soon after injuries and didn’t have a chance to get really back to 100% before playing. And he was the type of bowler who needed to be physically 100% with good rhythm, bowling quick. If he was a little off and bowling sub-140’s he lost a lot.

          One thing you could never question with Brett Lee though was his heart. He always gave everything he had, every time he stepped onto the field. There’s definitely a bit of questioning of heart when it comes to Anderson. He has always seemed like the sort of bowler who wants the ball when conditions were in his favour and it was working for him, but if it wasn’t, he just looked like he didn’t want to be there. While someone like Brett, it didn’t matter how adverse conditions were, he would still throw everything at it.

          • October 23rd 2017 @ 5:09pm
            matth said | October 23rd 2017 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

            I would classify Johnson, not as a great bowler, but a bowler who had truly great games and series. Broad is similar. not a great, but he has had some great games. On the batting side I would put Kevin Pietersen into that category. A player of great innings.

          • October 23rd 2017 @ 7:12pm
            qwetzen said | October 23rd 2017 @ 7:12pm | ! Report

            Brett Lee again. So very often the phrase you invariably hear near his name is; “better than his overall career figures suggest.” It’s rubbish. He was average.

            Someone was bleating about JA only being a ‘great’ bowler in England as the conditions there are so favourable. If that’s the case then why is Lee’s average there 45.4 from 20 innings? It must be because he was ordinary.

            Lee is as close to being a ‘great’ fast bowler as Trump is to being a statesman, and the only ‘Best Ever Oz XI’ he’s a contender for would be ‘The Most Overrated XI’. Bah!

      • Roar Guru

        October 22nd 2017 @ 1:51pm
        The Bush said | October 22nd 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

        One off great series does not make you great. None of Flintoff, Lee or Johnson are greats. But they’ll be foreve remember for some great stints and that’s to be admired and celebrated. Anderson’s might have done that for England sometime, but I’ve never seen it.

        I’ll tell you right now Anderson isn’t suddenly at 35 going to do something he’s never done before. He’s more likely to do a Trott, Swann, et al than anything else.

    • October 22nd 2017 @ 1:15pm
      Paul said | October 22nd 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      It’s safe to say Anderson is in pretty good form, based on his performances in the English summer Tests. I completely agree with your suggestion he has the chance to do something great and he’d need to be spectacular if England are to win the Ashes without Stokes.

      In terms of an all-rounder, one series a great player does not make. Flintoff played out his skin in 2005, no argument about that. Australia however, has watched guys like Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, etc and those with long memories think back to the Keith Miller, Alan Davidson, Ritchie Benaud days. In other words, we’ve been looking for this type of cricketer for well over 60 years. It just happened Flintoff came along and was born in the wrong country for our needs! Same with Botham.

      • October 23rd 2017 @ 5:10pm
        matth said | October 23rd 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

        Botham was in the same category as Kapil, Dev and Imran Khan, especially early in his career before his bowling tailed off.

    • October 22nd 2017 @ 2:42pm
      Ozibatla said | October 22nd 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

      One thing I think is key for Anderson is to start the series well. In 2013, after a reasonable 1st innings with the ball at the GABBA, Clarke and Warner attacked him in the 2nd innings and he got abit rattled. Then Johnson and co went at him real hard when he had the bat in hand. It seemed to reel him in to the verbal stuff which he likes to engage in anyways and he lost focus. From there it went downhill for him.

      The same applied in 2006 when Ponting and co got into him from the get go.

      One factor in Andersons favour this series is the 2nd test in Adelaide being played at night which cancels out the traditional batsmens paradise aspect to a certain degree and brings in his style of bowling.

      Whether hes considered an all-time great or not, he is the best swing bowler in the world. I have seen no one else who can swing it both ways conventional or reverse whilst maintaining an impeccable seam position, control and not changing their action at all.

      • Roar Guru

        October 23rd 2017 @ 2:21pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | October 23rd 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

        I don’t know about not changing his action at all. When he bowls the inswinger with the new ball you can see a change in his shoulder action required to keep his wrist position correctly behind the ball with the seam pointed the other way. That’s inevitable, I don’t think it’s possible to do it without that change in shoulder movement. Of course, once the ball gets old and you start getting reverse swing it becomes possible to get the swing to change with the exact same seam position just by switching the ball around. So no change of action required for that at all.

        I also think people are overplaying the Adelaide D/N test factor. There’s lots of comments like the pink ball under lights moves around a lot, and going back a few years that was the case, but the development of the pink ball over the last couple of years means that it is highly likely it won’t swing around any more than the red ball. And they figured out that they don’t really need to leave lots of extra grass on the pitch to protect the ball like they did for the first D/N test. So I would expect Adelaide to give pretty good batting conditions.

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 5:11pm
          matth said | October 23rd 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

          Yes, the more recent efforts with the pink ball were not as bowler friendly.

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 5:46pm
          Ozibatla said | October 23rd 2017 @ 5:46pm | ! Report

          I hear what your saying Chris but I cant say I agree. Regarding Andersons action when bowling an inswinger: I would venture to say there is very little noticeable change on his action from his stock outswinger. And its more to do with wrist work than shoulder when one tries to bowl an inswinger. Maybe the delivery arm is a little higher towards the perpendicular but any batsman in real time will struggle to pick that up. It is possible to do this by only changing your wrist position without comprimising any other aspect of your bowling action, ie: Wasim Akram (dont worry Im not putting Anderson in his class).

          As far as condotions go at night in Adelaide: yes they are still reasonable for batting but to suggest it is overated when mentioning tougher batting conditions under lights is off the mark I think. One only has to look at the two day/night test matches played at Adelaide compared to the traditional day games and you notice a difference. I agree, they will leave slightly less grass on the pitch but batting under lights against the continually evolving nature of the pink ball that many players suggest is more difficult to pick up will offer challenges.

    • October 22nd 2017 @ 8:21pm
      Marshall said | October 22nd 2017 @ 8:21pm | ! Report

      He wont because he’s a pea heart who makes his living when conditions are favorable and has been belted and thrown the towel in on multiple overseas tours.

      He’s not in the class of any of the greats, just played a long time and played plenty of cricket at home in favorable conditions to wrack up wickets.