It was the second ball of the 62nd over on day five of the third Test match between England and Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl. There are a lot of numbers in there, but the only one that mattered for James Anderson was the one which once Joe Root held onto the ball after Azhar Ali had edged it him at slip, ensured a record breaking 600th wicket was finally claimed by the England pace bowler.
James Anderson of England shakes hands with Abid Ali of Pakistan at close of play after reaching 600 Test Match Wickets
Dropped catches by Dom Sibley, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley and even Stuart Broad earlier in the third Test prevented Anderson from achieving that landmark figure beforehand, and with there being some doubt over when England will next play Test cricket due to coronavirus, Anderson delivered in the only way he knows how. In 157 matches, and with a Test best bowling return of 7-42, and with an overall average of just under 27, the 38 year old Anderson proved to those who had questioned his inclusion in the summer Tests, by doing what he has done since his debut as a 21 year old against Zimbabwe at Lords in 2003. He still takes wickets.
Azhar Ali of Pakistan edges behind giving James Anderson his 600th Test Match Wicket during Day Five of the 3rd #RaiseTheBat Test in Southampton
England had already beaten Pakistan in their three match Test series, the series result effectively coming down to one session in the first Test match at Emirates Old Trafford. Needing 277 to win, in their second innings England were in trouble at 117-5 and at the mercy of Pakistan’s young pace attack of 20 year old Shaheen Afridi and 17 year old Naseem Shah. However, the tourists were unable to capitalise on their strong position, with the naivety of captain Azhar in the field a factor in Pakistan’s demise. Chris Woakes with 84 not out and Joss Buttler with 75 succesfully took the game to the Pakistan attack with some aggressive batting to see Joe Root’s side home by 3 wickets.
Shaheen Afridi of Pakistan will have learned a lot about bowling in English conditions
Anderson only took one wicket in the first Test, then 3 wickets in the second, but his 5-56 in the third Test at the Ageas Bowl proved his continued durability in English conditions, and unlike his young counterparts Afridi and Naseem from Pakistan who struggled on their first Test tour to these shores, Anderson knows how to take wickets on a pitch which was proving to be unhelpful to seam bowling.
With his tally of 600 wickets, Anderson is fourth best on the all-time list of Test bowlers. Ahead of him, India’s Anil Kumble has 619 wickets, Shane Warne has 708 wickets, while top of the pile of Muttiah Muralitharan with 800 wickets. The three ahead of Anderson are spinners and unlike the England pace bowler, all three have retired from the game.
Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes. Their sixth wicket partnership in the first Test at Emirates Old Trafford ensured England won that match and the series against Pakistan
With his desire to continue to be available for Test match selection – Anderson has the backing of Root, there seems the likelihood of more wickets to come from man from Burnley. Whether that should be limited Tests in England, or could Anderson be still be effective in the variances of overseas conditions has been discussed. Anderson’s name should certainly the first on the team sheet when England next host a Test match, and if that is at the expense of playing outside England, then that would be a challenge worth taking. Opposition batsmen will always have a battle when a charged Anderson next tries to add to his wickets column and England will remain the better for his continued inclusion.