When England’s Jimmy Anderson bowled Simon Harmer of South Africa in the Second Test at Old Trafford last weekend, the seamer bowler set a new record, going past Glenn McGrath to become the most successful pacer of all time. He then followed that up by having Kagiso Rabada caught by Joe Root at slip to take his total tally to 951 wickets, two more than the Australian managed in his career.
And despite being now 40, Anderson does not appear finished just yet. He is virtually certain to play in the Third Test against the South Africans at The Oval, and if fit, captain Ben Stokes will want him on the plane to play test series against Pakistan in November and again in next February.
And, the good news, for them at least, is that the Lancastrian has no plans of retiring yet.
Already in the record books
Anderson is already in the record books having taken the third highest test wickets ever behind Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne. He is the only pace bowler to have taken more than 600 wickets and has now more than a hundred more than McGrath who finished his career with 563 scalps to his name in the longer form of the game.
In fact, McGrath may lose his place on the all-time list to Anderson’s England team-mate Stuart Broad, who is now just four behind them, and is another man likely to tour if Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have their way.
Arguably, with the rise of T20 franchise cricket, Anderson’s mark may never be beaten because the five day game is increasingly falling out of favour.
All-time international wicket-takers
In terms of the all-time international wicket takers, Muralitharan and Warne again lead the way with 1,347 and 1001 wickets respectively. Currently Kumble has five more victims than Anderson, but the Englishman could eclipse his mark of 956 international victims by the end of the Third Test.
It should be noted, though, that those other three were all spinners – a discipline that does not exert such wear and tear on the body as the physical exertion of bowling thousands of overs of pace over the years.
The other three also played much more white ball cricket than the Englishman. He played his last T20I in 2009 and his final ODI six years later, deciding that he was placing too great a toll on his body. In ensuring his longevity at test level, he may have foregone the chance to take many more wickets in the two shorter formats.
Who might threaten these records?
In terms of who might yet threaten these records, there are currently three players in contention, although they will have to play international cricket at the top level for a number of years yet before they can be included in the conversation.
Tim Southee of New Zealand currently has 658 international scalps to his name, one more than Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. And trailing behind them with 631 wickets is Shakib Al-Hasan with 631 wickets.
No other player still playing now has more than 550 wickets to their credit.
Why players of yesteryear do not feature in the list
The names of successful international bowlers do not contain any names from more than 30 years ago for several reasons.
First, it was before the advent of one day cricket, so the only opportunities players had to take wickets was in test matches. The first ODI was not played until January 1971 and it would be another 34 years before the first recognised T20I contest.
And prior to the advent of international air travel, tours were few and far between with teams having to travel overseas by boat which could take several weeks.
Last but certainly not least, games were played on uncovered pitches. These could work both ways, but if there was dampness on the first day which then dried, it made for ideal batting conditions and bowlers especially seamers, could struggle.
Although England supporters may regard Anderson almost as a permanent fixture in their test team –with an admirable level of consistency – the reality is that he cannot go on forever and sooner rather than later, he will be forced to hang up his boots.
However, before he does so, he may yet set a few more records yet. And when he does so, they should be celebrated because they may never be beaten.
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