England v Pakistan Tests - Men's
Anderson becomes first quick to 600 Test wickets
Rain and bad light can't stop the master swing bowler from shining in Southampton as drawn third Test hands England a 1-0 series win
26 August 2020, 06:24 AM AEST
England great James Anderson has passed another seemingly insurmountable milestone, becoming the first seam bowler to take 600 Test wickets.
Rain threatened to leave Anderson stranded on 599, but when play finally resumed in the afternoon of day five of the third Test against Pakistan – the last day of the English Test summer – he took his chance, dismissing Pakistan captain and first-drop Azhar Ali to reach the landmark.
Anderson had Ali, who made an unbeaten 141 in the first innings, edging to Joe Root at first slip to signal the start of a special celebration for the veteran seamer.
"It feels amazing," Anderson told Sky Sports after play. "Went to bed last night not expecting to bowl a ball today, with the weather. But credit to the ground staff, they've been brilliant both here and Old Trafford."
Anderson's wicket was one of just two to fall on the final day as rain and bad light prevented any significant amount of play. The third Test was subsequently drawn, handing England a 1-0 series win after their first Test victory at Old Trafford.
The 38-year-old entered this match with 593 Test wickets under his belt and added five more in the tourists' first innings, his 29th five-wicket haul.
Only Muthiah Muralidaran (800 wickets), Shane Warne (708) and Anil Kumble (619) possess more Test wickets than Anderson, and given he is getting better with age, who knows where the Englishman will finish on this list.
However, two Tests ago Anderson's career looked to be nearing an end.
Having taken 1-97 in the first Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford, Anderson said he was frustrated by the whispers about his playing future ahead of the second Test.
While he admitted he was below his best in Manchester, the epic first-Test win reinforced in Anderson the desire to keep playing and keep England's fit battery of fast bowlers at bay.
"I want to keep playing as long as I can," said Anderson.
"I think if I keep bowling the way I did this week (in the first Test) the opportunity to retire will be taken out of my hands – it will be a selection issue.
"I'm still hungry to play the game and I think the frustration this week has been after one game the whispers that go around. I don't think that's really fair.
"Experiencing a win like that this week is why we play the game.
"Everyone has a bad game every now and then."
Anderson's first Test wicket was captured 17 years ago on Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord's, where he needed 18 balls to bowl Mark Vermeulen to get his record-breaking career underway.
Injury and technical issues meant Anderson was in and out of the side for the next five years, playing just 19 more Tests before 2008. But when he was given a chance in New Zealand in 2008, the right-armer grabbed it with both hands.
By the end of the home summer, Anderson had Test wicket No.100 – legendary South African allrounder Jacques Kallis at The Oval – in his 29th match.
Twenty-five matches later, Anderson dismissed Australia's Peter Siddle in Perth for wicket No.200. While England lost the Test, victories in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney secured England's first Ashes series win in Australia in 24 years, with Anderson taking 24 wickets.
Of all the batters Anderson has dismissed, it's Siddle who he has removed most frequently, sending the Australian packing 11 times.
Wicket No.300 was New Zealand's towering batsman Peter Fulton in 2013 at Lord's, the iconic venue where Anderson has taken 103 of his Test wickets from 23 matches at 23.89 runs apiece.
On his way to 400, Anderson became England's all-time leading wicket-taker when he had Windies gloveman Denesh Ramdin out caught at first slip for wicket No.384 to break Sir Ian Botham's record. 'Beefy' was commentating the match and gave Anderson two thumbs upon passing his mark, reminiscent of Richie Benaud acknowledging Dennis Lillee from the commentary box when the tearaway quick surpassed the leg-spinner's Australian record.
At Headingley, it was another Kiwi as a landmark dismissal, with Martin Guptill edging to second slip to be wicket No.400 for Anderson in his 104th Test. He wasn't on 400 for long –Kane Williamson was removed in the same over.
Anderson joined Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh in the 500 club 25 Tests later when he crashed through the defences of West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite at Lord's, and 12 months after that against India at The Oval, he eclipsed McGrath as the most prolific fast bowler in Test cricket with wicket No.564. India seamer Mohammed Shami was the victim, his middle stump uprooted.
During his Test career, Anderson has played with 92 teammates. He shared the dressing room 130 times with Alastair Cook while he's played just one Test with 15 players. Off-spinner Dom Bess has played eight Tests with Anderson and having witnessed the evergreen seamer up close he is of the belief there has been no better player to represent the Three Lions.
"He's England's greatest," said Bess on Sunday.
"It's phenomenal to stand at point and watch him nick people off, hit people on the shins and take as many poles as he does, so consistently.
"There was chat about a potential retirement, then he comes back and absolutely tears it up.
"It just shows how good he is."