James Anderson closes in on Glenn McGrath's Test-wicket record with Anil Kumble in his sights
James Anderson is four short of equalling Glenn McGrath's record of 563 wickets and showing no signs of slowing down.
Last Updated: 07/09/18 8:41am
When James Anderson calls time on his illustrious playing career, the clamour for a road to be named after him and statue erected in his hometown Burnley will gather pace.
But for now, England's all-time leading-wicket taker remains their very own Benjamin Button.
Last month, Anderson thanked his followers on social media for the birthday wishes having turned 36, citing his team-mates for 'making him feel like a 21-year-old.'
He may be England's oldest swinger in town, but Anderson is taking wickets at a faster rate than ever with 2017 his best year on record.
His form has continued into 2018, and captain Joe Root was full of praise for his latest display of reversing the ageing process at Lord's.
"There's been chat about his longevity, but at the minute he's bowling better than he ever has," England's captain said.
"Even though the conditions suited, you've still got to ask the right questions of the batters. Throughout the whole game, he did just that."
Anderson is listening to his body, taking a month out of action earlier this summer due to a shoulder injury. Having rested a longstanding problem which flared up in England's second Test win over Pakistan in early June, he returned to take two wickets for Lancashire's second string last month - and he has not looked back.
There's no stopping the fast pace bowler at present as he consolidated his position at the top of the ICC World Rankings courtesy of his career-high points total of 903.
Having become the first English bowler since Ian Botham in 1980 to cross the 900-mark, Anderson is targeting Glenn McGrath's record in the final Test against India.
The paceman has been climbing up the leaderboard since he passed Botham's tally of 383 wickets against West Indies in April 2015 to become his country's most successful bowler.
Anderson is just four wickets from equalling McGrath's mark of 563, the most wickets taken by a paceman in 141 years of Test cricket.
The supreme swing bowler is currently fifth in the all-time standings, with McGrath behind spin triumvirate Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, whose 800 wickets across 133 Test matches is unlikely to be beaten.
Anderson has previously said personal milestones are of little consequence to him, but despite cherishing four Ashes wins, surpassing McGrath's record would be a huge feather in his cap.
He told Sky Sports ahead of the Edgbaston Test last month: "To be as close to someone like Glenn McGrath as I am is still a bit surreal.
"For me, [McGrath] is the greatest fast bowler that there has ever been. I'm just going to keep playing as well as I can and if I get there, I get there."
Anderson's team-mate Jonny Bairstow is hoping for another masterclass.
"There's no reason he can't keep going, body permitting," said Bairstow, after Anderson demolished India with match figures of 9-43 at Lord's.
"His stats are speaking for themselves, and there's potential for him to break every record going for a seamer, I don't think he's too far off."
Ironically, McGrath bowled Anderson for his last Test wicket in 2007, and the Australian has nothing but the utmost respect for the seasoned quick.
Earlier this year, he admitted: "Records are there to be broken. If Jimmy is good enough he'll get there. If he keeps playing for another year or two he'll definitely get there.
"If he can get it good luck to him. I wish him all the best."
The right-armer boasts an average of 3.81 wickets per Test, but if he has designs of playing on to the 2019 Ashes in England, he might want to be more selective with which games he partakes in.
Top 10 all-time wicket takers in Test cricket
|Muttiah Muralitharan||Sri Lanka||133||800|
|Courtney Walsh||West Indies||132||519|
|Richard Hadlee||New Zealand||86||431|
|Rangana Herath||Sri Lanka||92||430|
But for how much longer can he go on? The 36-year-old would have been forgiven for packing it in after a punishing two months in Australia last winter.
Barely eight months on from that severe examination of his shoulder, however, the Lancastrian has risen from the Ashes defeat and looks as good as ever.
Remarkably, since 2016, Anderson has averaged under 20 runs per wicket taken in Test cricket.
It has led to plaudits from contemporaries, including a special message from Dale Steyn after Murali Vijay went for an embarrassing pair and a peach dismissed KL Rahul.
South Africa's spearhead wrote on Twitter: "I love how quick Jimmy is between deliveries. No stares, no words, no fuss. Gets back to his mark, bowls with intent, intelligence and great energy.
"Man knows what he wants [wickets] and most of all, he knows how to get them. Impressive bro."
Nasser Hussain has suggested Anderson should be rested for the forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka to preserve his longevity. If he is to play until 2022, he will have to be managed accordingly.
Anderson took 5-72 at Galle in 2012, but however tempting a final visit to one of the world's most picturesque cricket grounds may be, the selectors may err on the side of caution ahead of the 2019 Ashes series.
England coach Trevor Bayliss is not lining up Anderson's successor any time soon, believing he can play into his forties.
"As long as he keeps his body fit there's no reason why he can't go on for three or four years," he said.
"He keeps surprising everyone. The last 12-18 months, he had a shoulder problem, but at the moment he seems to have got over that pretty well and he just bowls and bowls and bowls."
Anderson is making up for lost time, with the remodelling of his bowling action and confidence issues meaning he had played just 17 Tests by the time he turned 25.
Vital to England's chances having taken 77 wickets since his 35th birthday, Anderson is only eclipsed by McGrath (82), Richard Hadlee (116) and Courtney Walsh (180) in taking more in the twilight of their careers.
Walsh became one of the game's great fast bowlers by preparing his body for the rigours of bowling over 30 overs in hostile conditions and, like Anderson, he was a slow starter.
"If you compare him with other bowlers around the world, a lot do start to drop off in their mid-30s or so," added Bayliss.
"It's only the very, very best that are able to keep it going. He's not just good when the conditions suit him. But in these conditions, he's the best in the world."
The sight of Anderson marching back to the start of his run will surely outlast Bayliss, whose set to step down from his role next summer, and who would bet against another trip for him to Australia.
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