James Anderson, Test cricket’s most prolific fast bowler, said he is surprised by how well he has done in recent years.
At the age of 36, when most fast bowlers have either retired or are at least winding down, Anderson has shown no signs of stopping. If anything, he’s only getting better with age, and is now setting sights on another milestone – 600 Test wickets.
Inevitably, Anderson has lost some pace in recent years, but he has more than made up for it with increased skill, unrelenting accuracy, and prodigious lateral movement. It is through expertise in these areas that he has picked up a whopping 101 wickets in the last two years at an average of 20.23, much better than his already impressive career average of 26.84.
“Yes, I think it has (surprised me),” said Anderson ahead of the Test series against Sri Lanka. “It’s not the norm for bowlers to have that sort of spike towards the back end of their careers.
“I’ve been a little bit surprised by it. I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years. It’s been a bit up and down for the team but we seem to be making good progress at the moment.”
Despite all the impressive numbers, Anderson still feels that he has areas to improve, saying he ‘hasn’t quite cracked’ the skill of bowling with the Kookaburra ball. The three Tests against Sri Lanka offer him another opportunity to work on that aspect, although the pitch conditions won’t be suitable for his kind of bowling.
“It is a huge challenge for seam bowlers out here, but when you have a good day here you get more satisfaction than bowling on a green seamer in England in April,” he said. “When you’re dripping with sweat, covered in mud, you know you’ve had a hard day, I think you get more out of that.”
But the challenges aren’t going to be exclusive to Anderson – Sri Lanka have been exceptionally good at home, especially against non-Asian teams. In their most recent series, they defeated South Africa 2-0, winning both games convincingly. Anderson knows competing will be difficult, but is confident England will do a good job, considering how they dominated the limited-overs contests, winning the ODIs 3-1 as well as the one-off T20I.
“Having seen the guys who cross over both forms of the game and the way they played in the one-day stuff [England beat Sri Lanka 3-1], that will stand them in good stead having that sort of experience of the pitches,” he said.
“We have guys with the mental ability. The thing that stood Cooky out from everyone else was that in hot conditions he could bat for long, long periods of time. That’s what it is going to take out here.”