England v India Test - Men's
Special moment for emotional Anderson
James Anderson was in tears after the match that saw him overtake Glenn McGrath with the most wickets by a seam bowler in Test history
12 September 2018, 02:21 PM AEST
In a match for which the script could have been drafted by a schmalzy Hollywood screenwriter, it was apt that England's victory against India was sealed by James Anderson's record-breaking 564th Test wicket that saw him succeed Australian great Glenn McGrath as the most prolific seam bowler in history.
Following on from Alastair Cook's fairytale farewell century in this final Test of the northern summer, the ovation Anderson received at The Oval in the immediate aftermath of England's 4-1 series win was another ‘I was there moment'.
It was special for everyone present, not least the two main protagonists who have become best friends during the 12 years they have shared a dressing-room.
Such was the emotion of the occasion, Anderson broke down when speaking about Cook during a post-match interview that took place moments after he had uprooted the middle stump of India's Mohammad Shami to move past McGrath.
"I'm so happy Cookie was on the field to see that final wicket," he said. "It's been a tough week. He is my best mate and it's been brilliant just to have him there for me all the time."
Then the tears started to flow and the interview was terminated.
For Cook, venerated throughout his 161st and final Test, there has been no greater England cricketer than the man everyone knows simply as ‘Jimmy'.
"To see Jimmy pass Glenn McGrath's record was just brilliant," he said. "I've played so much cricket with him and Stuart [Broad]. That's the hardest bit, knowing you won't play with them again. Or actually it's the easiest bit, knowing I'll never stand at first slip and drop a catch off one of them again.
Congratulations to @jimmy9 on becoming the most successful fast bowler in the history of the game. Your dedication, commitment & work ethic are as obvious as your skill & mental… https://t.co/AuMOgJdhr6— Glenn McGrath (@glennmcgrath11) September 12, 2018
"We've lived in each other's pockets for 12 years. It's been a privilege to play with Jimmy – England's greatest-ever cricketer.
"You almost take it for granted that he is going to hit a length every time. It shouldn't be like that. It's fitting he knocked out middle stump."
At 36, Anderson is three years Cook's senior but despite having the more physically demanding role of a seam bowler, he is showing no signs of slowing down.
For Joe Root, England's Test captain, Anderson is in the form of his life and seemingly getting better with every passing year.
Now only three spinners in Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble stand ahead of him on the all-time list.
"What Jimmy's achieved and what he's capable of achieving still is astounding really," said Root. "For him to have taken as many wickets as he has to even be in the same league as the likes of Glenn McGrath chasing the spinners at the top is phenomenal.
"I think the most exciting thing is he's bowling, in my opinion, he's the best he's ever been. Throughout this summer he's been outstanding and I can see that carrying forward hopefully for a long time.
"There is still a lot left for Jimmy. The scary thing is I feel he has got a good couple of years left."
The bad news for Australia ahead of next year's Ashes in England is that Root is right.
In this series against an Indian team for whom seamers Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have been superb, Anderson was still the leading bowler with 24 wickets at 18.12.
That was no fluke either, with Anderson taking 67 wickets at 20.19 in 15 Tests over the past calendar year. Since the start of the northern summer of 2016 his record is even better – with 131 wickets at 19.09.
Injury can always strike someone of Anderson's advancing years but he is being carefully managed by England and Root in particular, the captain at one point during the final day at The Oval holding him back for 43 overs before unleashing him for a prolonged spell that ended with the match-winning - and record-breaking - dismissal of Shami.
Many in Australia might question whether Anderson deserves his place above McGrath at the top of the all-time list. After all, he has taken 20 more Tests to equal and eventually go past the New South Welshman's mark.
However, to compare the two does both a disservice. McGrath was simply the best bowler of line and length the game has ever seen and is ever likely to see, Anderson the greatest swing bowler.
It's just a shame we were never able to see them play against each other when both were in their pomp. What a contest that would have been, especially in England, where McGrath took 87 wickets in 14 Tests at 19.34.