James Anderson has said the prospect of equalling the England record for Test appearances held by Alastair Cook is “mind-blowing”. If Anderson is selected for next week’s series opener against New Zealand at Lord’s, he will draw level with retired former captain Cook’s mark of 161 Tests. But while his close friend Cook spent his international career as an opening batsman, the 38-year-old Anderson, already England’s most successful Test bowler with 614 wickets — the most by any paceman in the format — has had the far more physically demanding task of leading the attack. And should Anderson achieve his aim of playing in all seven Tests against New Zealand and India this season, he will be behind just a trio of batsmen — India’s Sachin Tendulkar (200 Tests) and the Australia duo of Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh (both 168) — in the all-time list.
“It does make me feel proud,” Anderson told reporters. “I never imagined in a million years I’d get to this point.
“Certainly for a bowler to play this amount of games is… I don’t know what the word is… but it’s a bit mind-blowing to me because I don’t feel like I’ve played that many games.”
Anderson, who appeared with his England team-mates in the LV= Insurance launch video “In With Heart” celebrating England’s cricket community, added: “My body doesn’t feel old or tired.
“I absolutely love Test cricket, I’ve got a huge passion for it. Growing up, that’s all I wanted to do is play Test cricket for England and I’m honoured I’ve been able to do it for this long.”
Equalling Cook’s match tally at Lord’s would be particularly significant for Anderson as the ‘home of cricket’ was the venue for his Test debut, against Zimbabwe, 18 years ago.
“Turning up to Lord’s, since I first did it in 2003…the atmosphere around that ground is something you don’t experience anywhere else in the world,” he said.
– ‘Put a shift in’ –
Anderson is also just eight shy of taking 1,000 first-class wickets, with Andrew Caddick the last England quick to achieve the feat in 2005.
“In this day and age I don’t know if it’s possible to get that many first-class wickets anymore, the amount of cricket that’s played, there doesn’t seem to be that longevity in bowlers anymore, and there’s loads of T20 cricket and whatever else is going on around the world,” Anderson said.
But the Lancashire swing bowler said there was more behind his ongoing career than statistical landmarks.
“Putting the hard yards in, that’s when it means the most, putting a shift in for the team,” he said. “I get a lot of pleasure out of it. Bowling 10 overs on a green seamer doesn’t really do it for me.
“I want to put a shift in for the team when it’s tough.”
Anderson, however, is looking forward to having spectators present when he next rewrites cricket’s record books.
Covid-19 restrictions meant he took his 600th Test wicket behind closed doors at Southampton last year.
But some 7,000 fans are expected at Lord’s next week, with up to 18,000 allowed in for the second Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston after that match was nominated as a pilot event by the British government.
“It’s going to be pretty special having people there. I’m not sure if soulless is the right word, but it’s just not international cricket without fans there,” Anderson said.
“As players we get the impression everyone has missed it a fair amount. We’ve missed having fans there and they’ve missed watching us live.”
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