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England v India

James Anderson is England’s Warne, and he’s still getting better

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

James Anderson set the tone for a day beyond England’s wildest dreams with an immaculate new ball spell that accounted for KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli.

It was a vintage display from England’s attack leader, in which he made the most of overhead conditions and a ball that swung from the outset with great skill and control, using his array of tricks to prise out three of India’s biggest scalps.

He finished his eight-over spell with miserly figures of 3-6 before his less experienced teammates finished the job to bowl India out for their lowest score in England since 1952.

The dismissal of Kohli drew Anderson level with Nathan Lyon as the bowler to dismiss the Indian skipper more times than anyone else in Test cricket. Anderson also holds the record for dismissing Sachin Tendulkar more times than any other bowler in Test cricket.

During his spell, one Twitter user compared Anderson’s recent record to the careers of some of the greats of the game. For instance, the post highlighted that Anderson’s numbers since turning 31 are comparable to the overall career bowling stats of Pakistan great Imran Khan.

At 39, there is a reasonable claim to be made that we’re still seeing the best of Anderson in Test cricket. His economy rate in 2021 (2.13) is the lowest of his Test career, while his overall 2021 record of 29 wickets at 19.51 ranks among the best across his now 19-year long Test career; only in 2017 has Anderson taken his wickets at a lower average in a calendar year.

Though a different type of bowler, Anderson has been compared with Shane Warne – one of two bowlers ahead of Anderson in the all-time wicket-taking charts – before, on account of the number of variations at each bowers’ disposal. Like Warne, Anderson is still introducing new deliveries in the twilight years of his career.

While it remains unlikely that Anderson will pass Warne’s tally of 708 Test wickets, it’s not inconceivable. Even if Anderson doesn’t overtake Warne, it is possible that he finishes his career with a very similar average. Warne’s career average was 25.41, Anderson’s currently stands at 26.46. Anderson’s average has steadily decreased ever since his recall into the Test fold all the way back in 2008. Anderson would need to take his next 79 Test wickets at just above 17 to reach 708 wickets with an identical average to Warne. In 2021, Anderson has bowled England to victory in Asia, reach 1,000 first-class wickets and taken career-best first-class figures. The way he’s going, you never know.

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