Sunday 26 April 2015 13:42, UK
Bob Willis, who took 325 wickets in 90 Tests, urges James Anderson to aim for 500 Test wickets after breaking Sir Ian Botham's England record of 383...
I can’t overestimate the scale of James Anderson’s achievement – it is truly fantastic.
It’s quite something for a fast bowler to play 100 Test matches, but an incredible feat for Jimmy to get past Ian Botham’s record.
Ian will be very, very pleased that he’s finally been knocked off that particular perch because he’s a huge James Anderson fan and although I don’t suppose James will celebrate to the same extent as Ian, I’m sure the special gift that Ian is giving him for this achievement will have some liquid in it.
I must admit that when the likes of Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Caddick came and went, I thought no-one would get up and past 250 Test wickets.
But both Stuart Broad and James have sailed past that and fitness allowing, there’s nothing to stop Jimmy going on to take 500 Test wickets.
I’m sure he’ll want to do that; England play an awful lot of Test cricket and if he can keep mind and body together, he’s capable of achieving something even more special.
There has been a lot of heartache along the way since we first saw that callow youth get his first taste of international cricket back in 2002; he’s had multiple injuries and back problems to get over, not to mention coaches in and out of his ear.
But James knows his game and his body particularly well and he bowls within the limits of his physicality – he doesn’t try to overstrain to bowl fast.
He started off with pretensions of being a fast bowler but when he learned this incredible ability to swing the ball at will, particularly the red Duke ball, he began to make the ball talk.
If you chat to current professional players who face him in the middle, they say he’s an absolute wizard – you don’t know where the ball is going.
The great secret of swing bowling is getting the ball to move in the last third of its movement down the pitch; almost anyone can get a new cricket ball to swing from the hand, but if you can get it to swing in that crucial last seven or eight feet, then you are a world-class bowler – and that’s exactly what James Anderson is.
It takes a lot of hard work and practice to learn those skills and I remember James bowling for hour after hour in the nets and in the middle at lunchtime when he wasn’t in the final XI - first with Troy Cooley, then with David Saker – bowling at the dreaded cones and a single stump.
There’s no substitute for good, honest, hard work but you need that spark of talent too; I likened seeing James bowl for the first time to seeing Steven Finn for the first time. .
He stood out straight away as someone who had a wonderful approach to the wicket and a great, controlled action. Admittedly, he had a little bit of an idiosyncrasy of looking at the turf after he delivered the ball. People tried to alter it but he went back to it and it clearly works for him.
Bowling is a very particular and unique skill and you’ve got to be comfortable with what you’re doing and from the outset it was very clear that here was a star in the making.
Of all the memorable displays he’s put in for his country, James’ hat-trick against Pakistan at Cape Town in the 2003 World Cup stands out as does his seven-wicket haul against New Zealand in 2008 at Trent Bridge, a ground where he loves to play.
For a sustained piece of top-quality swing bowling at high pace, that one is hard to beat, but in terms of one particular delivery my favourite has to be the one he produced to knock over Michael Clarke in the 2013 Ashes series at Trent Bridge.
For all that, James is not a ‘high-profile’ individual in the sense that he likes to stay in the shadows and let his bowling do the talking – just look at how embarrassed he was when he led the England side out at the start of the first innings and everyone else hung back.
That’s all to his credit and what really matters is that he’s a magician with the ball whose place in history is secured.