This week we saw a momentous occasion for a young man from Burnley. James Anderson bagged his 500th test match wicket for England, only 5 men stand above him in the all time list of test match wickets. He’s also rapidly approaching Courtney Walsh’s record of 519 wickets.
There was no better place to do it than at the home of cricket. Lord’s was where he made his test debut and Lord’s is where he brought up this tremendous milestone.
But what makes Anderson so successful?
James Anderson is by no means the fastest bowler of all time. His team mates often joke about his lack of pace.
As a young pace bowler all you’re bothered about is pace. The golden 90mph figure is the goal for a lot of young pace bowlers. But out and out pace bowlers often don’t have lengthy careers in the England test team.
Players such as Mark Wood, Stuart Meaker and Tymal Mills have not successfully secured a place in the test team. With Tymal Mills the shear stress placed on his body has not allowed him to play the longer format of the game.
International batsmen genuinely aren’t fazed by fast bowling. With modern technology they can practice as much as they want against the fastest bowling in the world. They will see off a straight 90mph ball all day long.
So Jimmy Anderson doesn’t have the same pace as these guys; what doe he have? He has mastered the ability to move the ball.
James Anderson and Swing Bowling
In an interview in 2013, the then England head coach Andy Flower said ‘If you don’t move the ball sideways you are not going to create many problems for international batsmen’.
This is true, no matter how fast you’re bowling, a straight ball isn’t really going to trouble the best batsmen in the world.
James Anderson can move the ball sideways, and my god does he do it well.
James Anderson has the rare ability to swing the ball in the air both ways. He can get the ball to move right and left in the air at will.
This is why he has been so successful throughout his career. No seam bowler in the world can control a cricket ball like he can.
When the ball starts to move sideways then that’s when batsmen start to get in trouble. When it starts to move in the air you are effectively guessing, you are guessing how much the ball will move by. With a straight ball you know exactly the line to take.
We talked about Anderson’s lack of pace but at 80mph that only leaves you a fraction of a second to calculate the movement of the ball and then execute. I think the 500 wickets shows that for most batsmen this is too much.
For young pace bowlers this is a lesson. Learn to swing the ball, just ask ask Jimmy.