James Anderson has become the first seamer – and the fourth bowler overall – to claim 600 Test wickets. Anderson, whose Test career began in 2003, reached the milestone with the wicket of Azhar Ali as Pakistan batted on the final afternoon of the third Test of the series at the Ageas Bowl.
“It feels amazing,” Anderson told Sky Sports. “Went to bed last night not expecting to bowl a ball today, with the weather. But credit to the groundstaff, they’ve been brilliant both here and Old Trafford.
“The weather last night was horrendous and this morning it was still pouring down so we weren’t holding out much hope of playing. But I was thinking, even if I didn’t get the chance today, there’s worse numbers to be stuck on for a few months. So I’d have been happy either way.”
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Anderson could have been forgiven for wondering if the wicket would ever come. At one stage in this match, he saw four chances – none of them especially taxing, a couple of them really quite straightforward – dropped off his bowling within the space of 37 deliveries.
Rain and bad light has also frustrated him in recent days and, with England not scheduled to play another Test this year, it seemed Anderson could face an agonising wait.
With play held up on the final day by heavy overnight rain and a wet outfield, the game did not restart until 4.15pm. Anderson did not have to wait too much longer, having Azhar taken by Joe Root at lone slip in his third over, to spark celebrations among his team-mates.
“I guess I’ve been lucky with the milestones,” Anderson added. “I remember Antigua [where Anderson broke Ian Botham’s England record], the catch went to Cooky. Going to Joe, it does make it that little bit more special, because we’ve shared lots of moments throughout the years, played a lot of Test cricket together. And to share those moments with good friends make them even more special.
“Broady being out there as well. Me being out there for his 500th wicket this summer was incredibly special, and for him to be out there today made it so much more special for me.”
Anderson already holds numerous Test records. As well as having played more Tests – this is his 156th – than any other specialist seamer, he has also bowled more deliveries: nearly 34,000. Now aged 38, he has made it clear he has no immediate plans to retire and has previously expressed his desire to return to Australia for one more Ashes series at the end of 2021.
Of his longevity, Anderson said: “I just absolutely love it, there’s no better feeling for me than putting the boots on and going out there and doing what I love doing. There’s been hard work involved, in developing those skills that I can go out there and bowl the way I do. But I still get satisfaction from putting a hard shift in, bowling 25 overs and maybe getting a couple if wickets at the end of the day. That to me is what I get satisfaction out of.
“I still enjoy putting the yards in in nets, and making those tweaks with the technique to try and make sure that I’m in good shape going into Test matches. I still enjoy doing the stuff in the gym. I think that’s why I keep going.
“Frustratingly for me, I felt in great rhythm this week. I struggled a little bit through the summer but this week I felt as good as I have done for a number of years. Annoyingly it looks like we we’ve not got a Test match for another few months but hopefully I can keep ticking over and be fit enough and ready to go whenever that Test is.”
Glen Chapple, Anderson’s coach and former team-mate at Lancashire, described the achievement as “ridiculous” and praised his commitment to keep on improving and staying fit.
“He’s got an amazing talent but it’s the work ethic, dedication and discipline he’s shown to stay at the top for so long,” Chapple said. “He constantly strives to get better, he’s come back from injury and he’s never really taken a backward step.
“Obviously he deserves massive credit but as a fellow professional and a coach it’s great to see someone put in that amount of effort. It’s brilliant to watch his skills, his determination, his belief and his competitiveness on the field. Everyone at Lancashire is delighted for him, I’m sure his family is immensely proud and he should be as well.
“He just has a ruthless streak. A lot is made of how grumpy he can be but that’s usually in training and because he sets such high standards for himself. That shows the hunger and desire he has and not simply to achieve milestones. It’s a daily requirement for him to be excellent.
“Over the last ten years he’s been as good as anyone in the world, especially in England but his record around the world has been improving as well. The standard he got to in his late 20s was fantastic and he’s been able to maintain that. His fitness levels now are astonishing. He’s not slowing down and I don’t think he should have been subject to some of the criticism he’s had over the past two weeks.”