He excels with Three Lions on his shirt, but should there be a GOAT next to James Anderson’s name?

In the first test match of England’s test series in India, James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson proved why he is still England’s first choice bowler, eighteen years after his international debut. He also showed why he is considered one of the greatest bowlers of all time.

In his first over on day five, Anderson bowled arguably one of England’s best overs in the last twenty years, certainly alongside Andrew Flintoff’s two remarkable overs against Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis. His double-wicket maiden, dismissing both Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane, put England in prime position to grab the first win of the series.

Anderson’s destructive spell of 3-6 with three maidens from his five overs led England captain Joe Root to declare him “the GOAT” (greatest of all time). Root added that “he seems to get better all the time” and that “his skill level keeps improving” and “he’s a credit to English cricket.” Many English cricket fans will certainly agree with Joe Root’s statement that he is undoubtedly the greatest of all time. Holding the most wickets of any seam bowler (611) and being the only one to reach 600 wickets can undeniably back up Root’s statement. The closest to him is Glenn McGrath, with 563.

However, one of the major criticisms of Anderson’s bowling is that he isn’t as effective when playing away from England. This critique has been thrown about on social media platforms and spoken about extensively in the media throughout the last few years. Other great bowlers like Glenn McGrath and Dale Steyn indeed have a significantly lower bowling average away from home than Anderson.

However, since 2017 Anderson’s away average has dropped to 20.6, lower than McGrath’s (21.35) and Steyn’s (24.23). Ultimately, the statistics show that Anderson has significantly improved his performances away from home in the last few years. Despite being at the back end of his career, where many people would expect his numbers to decline, Anderson is somehow becoming even more effective.

It is almost absurd to think that an athlete can still perform at their very best despite being way past what many consider to be someone’s prime. But James Anderson, with each test, proves the doubters wrong again and again as he continues to deceive opposition batsmen with his tremendous skill.

Aged 38, Anderson continues to be a pivotal part of the England team. His skill, permanence, athleticism and sporting genius have allowed him to remain in the side for many years. It is extremely rare for a fast bowler to play over 150 test matches, so credit must be given to Anderson. He has powered through many injuries to spearhead England’s bowling attack.

Cricket has changed a lot over the years, with the introduction of shorter forms of the game, such as T20 cricket. With these changes, the game has become a batsman’s game, putting bowlers at a disadvantage. Flat and dropping wickets are increasingly frequently used, allowing for easy run-scoring. Other aspects that have contributed to the domination of batsmen include the size of grounds and the improvements made to the quality of cricket bats. For these reasons, Anderson’s achievements are all the more impressive.

And so, to answer the question, ‘Is James Anderson England’s greatest cricketer of all time?’, well, he certainly is England’s greatest ever bowler. Comparisons with batsmen, wicket-keepers and all-rounders are nigh on impossible, nor useful, but if you were to name England’s greatest XI, his name will, without a doubt, be one of the first on the list.

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Drew Murphy

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December 2021
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