England bowler could break Muttiah Muralitharan’s Test wickets record

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The 40-year-old seamer is still bowling at a remarkable standard in this Pakistan series and seems to be getting better with age

December 11, 2022 5:37 pm(Updated 6:35 pm)

James Anderson bowled a ball so good on day three of this second Test against Pakistan that even Mohammad Rizwan, the man he dismissed, admitted of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker: “I love him.”

Anderson produced one of the best deliveries of his career in Multan to notch up Test wicket No 674, the ball angling in and then moving away to smash into the top of Rizwan’s off-stump.

It was England’s first wicket of a day that ended with Pakistan on 198 for 4, in pursuit of a target of 355 to level this three-match series.

Now 40, Anderson’s powers show no signs of waning, indeed in the past year he has taken 42 wickets at an average of 18.47.

If anything he is getting better, leaving a shocked Rizwan in awe at Anderson’s latest piece of artistry.

“It was a master-class, I love him,” he said. “I had no answer to his question. If you get this ball in these conditions, when I saw him he said he bowled it like a Dukes ball in England.”

Anderson has often been accused by some misguided rival fans of cashing in only in helpful home conditions with that Dukes ball.

Yet, as ever, the numbers tell a different story. Over the past decade he has averages 20.91 runs per wicket in England and 20.62 in Asia.

Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan is dismissed by England's James Anderson (not pictured) during the third day of the second cricket Test match between Pakistan and England at the Multan Cricket Stadium in Multan on December 11, 2022. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
Anderson was simply too good for Rizwan (Photo: Getty)
Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan is clean bowled by England's James Anderson (not pictured) during the third day of the second cricket Test match between Pakistan and England at the Multan Cricket Stadium in Multan on December 11, 2022. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
Rizwan’s wicket was Anderson’s 674th in Tests (Photo: Getty)
England's James Anderson (L) celebrates after taking the wicket of Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan (C) during the third day of the second cricket Test match between Pakistan and England at the Multan Cricket Stadium in Multan on December 11, 2022. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
Anderson is third on the list of Test wicket-takers, behind only Warne and Muralitharan (Photo: Getty)

Anderson’s statistics over the past 10 years are astounding – 390 wickets at 22.89. For context, that’s seven more wickets than Ian Botham, the man he overtook to become England’s all-time leading wicket-taker in 2015, managed in his whole career.

How long the Lancastrian can go on is a question he has had to answer with increasing regularity over the past five years. It will surely be the topic of much discussion ahead of next summer’s home Ashes, as Anderson turns 41 during July’s final Test.

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Tantalisingly, Anderson may well have the opportunity to overtake the late, great Shane Warne at No 2 on the all-time list of Test wicket-takers against Australia. He needs just 35 wickets to go past the Australian legend, with four more Tests after this one before the Ashes begin.

Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan’s mark of 800 wickets might even become a realistic target for Anderson if he carries on for a few more years.

Leading men’s Test wicket-takers

  • Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) 800
  • Shane Warne (Australia) 708
  • James Anderson (England) 674
  • Anil Kumble (India) 619
  • Stuart Broad (England) 566
  • Glenn McGrath (Australia) 563
  • Courtney Walsh (West Indies) 519
  • Nathan Lyon (Australia) 450
  • Ravichandran Ashwin (India) 442
  • Dale Steyn (South Africa) 439

But it’s not just on the field that Anderson is helping England as the veteran is also the Test team’s unofficial bowling coach.

Assistant coach Marcus Trescothick alluded to that role at the end of day three in Multan, saying: “Jimmy has been brilliant, the way he is leading the group and encouraging them to go about their plans.”

And Ollie Robinson, who – along with Anderson and Mark Wood – also produced a wicket-taking delivery for the ages on Sunday, spoke last summer about how the leader of the attack has helped him since he broke into the team in the summer of 2021.

“I am learning so much from Jimmy Anderson,” said Robinson. “Since I’ve come into the England environment, he’s been one of my closest friends. I speak to him every day.”

This paints a very different picture from the caricature of Anderson as often being grumpy and sometimes difficult in the dressing-room.

But it’s clear that, like many others, he has found a new lease of life since coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes took over the Test team.

It’s barely believable that, with Stuart Broad, Anderson was dropped for the tour of the West Indies last spring. It’s not something that’s going to happen again before he calls time on his magnificent career.

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