England v New Zealand Tests - Men's
Why Anderson could be the last to join the 1000 club
The changing nature of the global game means Jimmy Anderson's impending 1000th first-class wicket could be a feat never seen again
1 June 2021, 02:24 PM AEST
If Jimmy Anderson takes his 1000th first-class wicket in the coming weeks, as he's expected to do, he will join a list of 215 other men to have reached the milestone before him.
And it's not a stretch to suggest that he could be the last.
Anderson looks set break a host of records this year as he enters his 18th season at Test level. Having already become the first fast bowler to take 600 Test wickets, he's just six dismissals away from moving into third spot among all Test wicket-takers and is two games short of the England record for most games played.
In the context of the centuries-old history of first-class cricket, Anderson's impending milestone of 1000 wickets appears relatively insignificant. After all, the record of Wilfried Rhodes, with 4204 wickets from more than 1100 matches, dwarfs Anderson's current resume of 992 dismissals in 259 games.
But in a modern context, with the dominance of the white-ball game and international tours, Anderson's record is a testament to his skill and longevity.
Of the 215 men to have reached the 1000-wicket milestone, only 13 have done so this century and only four of those have been fast bowlers; Andy Caddick (in 2005), Martin Bicknell (2004), Devon Malcolm (2002) and Wasim Akram (2001).
Anderson, who made his first-class debut in 2002, would become the first man to achieve the feat having begun his career this century.
And while toppling Caddick (1180 wickets in 275 first-class games) may prove beyond him, the records of Bicknell (1061 wickets), Malcolm (1054) and Akram (1042) are well within reach.
The scarcity of modern players joining the 1000 club is largely due to the significant reduction in the number of first-class matches played each year, particularly in England.
A large portion of those with 1000 wickets to their name played games at an astonishing rate for English counties in the late 1800s and early 1900s on uncovered pitches that favoured bowlers. Rhodes' all-time record of 1110 first-class matches will surely never be broken while of the 138 players to have played 500 games or more, almost 40 per cent finished their careers before the end of the Second World War and only two men – Graham Gooch and Graeme Hick – played during this century.
For context, Kent's veteran allrounder Darren Stevens, who is currently playing in his 24th season of first-class cricket at the age of 45, has a relatively measly 315 first-class games to his name.
Even in more modern times, the first-class schedule has been significantly reduced to make room for white-ball cricket. From a high of 32 matches per team in 1960 (before one-day cricket was introduced), the County Championship has been gradually compressed over the decades to the point where each team played just 14 first-class matches in 2019, the last full season before the pandemic reduced the season even further.
The wildly different landscape of the modern game is underlined by Anderson's most productive English summer in 2005, when he bowled more than 3000 balls for Lancashire and took 60 wickets. In 29 English summers, Rhodes averaged 130 wickets per season and only once bowled less than 3000 deliveries.
Throw in the workload management of modern players as well as the financial benefits of choosing T20 cricket over the longer format, it's hard to make a compelling case for anyone – particularly a fast bowler – to follow Anderson into the 1000 club.
His long-time Test teammate, Stuart Broad, has 830 first-class scalps to his name but at the age of 34 and with England commitments reducing his impact at domestic level, he would need to eke everything out of his twilight years to reach 1000.
Middlesex's Irish seamer Tim Murtagh is 39 years old and while he is showing no signs of slowing down, he is still 133 wickets short of 1000.
In an Australian context, veteran seamer Peter Siddle – who plans to continue playing first-class cricket for both Tasmania and Essex – has 'just' 651 dismissals to his name despite a long and decorated career.
The next member of the 1000 club after Anderson, if anyone is does get there, would most likely be a spin bowler. The two most recent entrants were Sri Lankan spinners – Rangana Herath in 2017 and Dinuka Hettiarachchi two years later – while veteran tweaker Dilruwan Perera currently has 808 wickets to his name.
Anderson, who has grown accustomed to some notable career milestones in recent years, himself conceded last week that taking 1000 first-class wickets in the modern era is an achievement that is difficult to comprehend.
"A thousand wickets does seem like a lot," he said.
"In this day and age, I don't know if it's possible to get that many first-class wickets anymore.
"With the amount of cricket that's played, there doesn't seem to be that longevity in bowlers anymore, and there's loads of T20 cricket and whatever else going on around the world.
"It feels a lot."
M: 160 | Balls: 34326 | Wkts: 614 | Ave: 26.46 | SR: 55.90 | 5w: 30 | 10w: 3 | BBI: 7-42
M: 259 | Balls: 51596 | Wkts: 992 | Ave: 24.72 | SR: 52.00 | 5w: 50 | 10w: 6 | BBI: 7-42
Players reaching the 1000-wicket milestone this century
Mushtaq Ahmed – 1407 wickets at 25.67
Muttiah Muralidaran – 1374 at 19.64
Shane Warne – 1319 at 26.11
Andy Caddick – 1180 at 26.59
Robert Croft – 1175 at 35.08
Anil Kumble – 1136 at 25.83
Rangana Herath – 1080 at 25.15
Martin Bicknell – 1061 at 25.06
Phil Tufnell – 1057 at 29.35
Devon Malcolm – 1054 at 30.33
Wasim Akram – 1042 at 21.64
Danish Kaneria – 1023 at 26.18
Dinuka Hettiarachchi – 1001 at 23.51