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ENGLAND V SRI LANKA TESTS

Anderson closing in on McGrath's record

14 June 2016

Anderson took 21 wickets at 10.80 against Sri Lanka // Getty

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Anderson capitalised on favourable home conditions to dominate Sri Lanka but proving he can be a force on Australian soil remains his goal

About the Writer:
 @StocksC_cricket

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

If there were any thoughts before this series against Sri Lanka began that James Anderson's powers were waning then the leader of England's attack dispelled them with a succession of stunning performances.

Yes, the opposition may have been weak and, with two of the three Tests coming in the damp, gloomy and freezing north of England, conditions were tailor-made for the king of swing.

However, 21 wickets at an average of 10.80 in a three-match series is still hugely impressive. Indeed, not since Mitchell Johnson's demolition of England during the 2013-14 Ashes – a series that saw him take 37 wickets at 13.97 – has one bowler so dominated Test opposition.

The key question for England, though, is whether Anderson, can keep going until the team's next Ashes tour of Australia in 2017-18.

Anderson will be 35 by then but unlike Johnson, who retired at the age of 34 last November, he appears to have the hunger to continue playing at the highest level for some time yet.

That's no surprise given he has just been crowned the No1 bowler in Test cricket for the first time.

He is also rapidly closing in on 500 Test wickets, with Aussie legend Glenn McGrath recently backing him to pass his mark of 563 and become the leading seam bowler in Test history.

Quick Single: McGrath on Anderson's hunt for his record

If the Lancastrian can keep injuries to a minimum – and the decision to continue overlooking him for limited-overs cricket will help in that respect – then he will surely pitch up in Perth when England land on Australian soil in 18 months' time to begin their defence of the urn.

Speaking before this series against Sri Lanka began, Anderson said: "I'm just thinking about what's in front of me, staying fit, trying to keep up with the young guys.

"I've enjoyed the different responsibility since some younger guys have come in. That responsibility to pass things on or help out in the field, chat to them in the nets. Whatever it might be, I've enjoyed that different role. It's very different to what I've had before. So that might keep me going for a bit longer."

Anderson also revealed one man who has urged him to keep going is Andrew Flintoff, his fellow Lancastrian and England's hero from their 2005 Ashes series win.

He said: "I've spoken to a few people about coming towards the end and everyone I've spoken to has said 'Keep going for as long as you can'. "Fred told me 'Just keep playing for as long as you can because you miss it so much when you can't play'."

One thing that will probably drive Anderson as well is the desire to once and for all prove to an Australian audience he is someone who can work his magic away from the green, green grass of home.

It's perhaps forgotten Anderson actually did that once before, taking 24 wickets at 26.04 during England's 2010-11 Ashes series win. His overall record in Australia, though, sees him averaging close to 40 from 13 Tests.

Having been part of two whitewashes either side of that sole triumph, you'd expect Anderson would like to even up the ledger by trying to be part of another successful England side Down Under.

There is much cricket to be played before then – a brutal winter that sees seven back-to-back Test series in Bangladesh and India will be a true Test of Anderson's durability and fitness.

However, most observers in England believe he can keep going for a while longer.

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