Aug 25, 2020
S RajeshStats editor, ESPNcricinfo
- S Rajesh is ESPNcricinfo’s stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
All stats updated till the ball with which he took his 600th wicket
Anderson’s skills with the red ball have always been formidable, but the most astonishing aspect of his career has been his fitness, endurance, and the sheer drive in maintaining the very high standards over an incredibly long period of time. He is the first specialist fast bowler to play 150 Tests, and has sent down 33,717 deliveries in Test cricket; the next-highest for a fast bowler is 30,019 by Courtney Walsh.
Older and deadlier
You’d expect a fair amount of wear and tear for a fast bowler who has put in so much work, but Anderson’s work ethic has ensured that, even at 38, he is in excellent shape – despite a few injuries recently – and arguably bowling better than ever. In the 65 Tests he has played in the last six-and-a-half years, Anderson has averaged a phenomenal 21.71, which is much lower than the average in his first 44 Tests (34.85).
Fifty-five per cent of Anderson’s Test wickets have come after he turned 30 – that’s 332 wickets out of 600. Only one other fast bowler has taken 300-plus wickets after turning 30: Walsh, who had 341 wickets at 24.17. Both Walsh and Anderson have 17 five-fors, which is next only to Richard Hadlee (25) and Sydney Barnes (20) among fast bowlers. And the average has been getting better too: 30.37 before he turned 30, 23.91 since then, and 21.37 since he turned 32. And the way he has performed in his 156th Test suggests he still has some fuel left in the tank.
After 20 Tests, Anderson’s career average was 39.2. After 46 Tests, it was 34.81. Since then, the average has gotten better and better, much like it has been for Broad. Anderson’s current average of 26.76 is his best since his fifth Test, when he averaged 26.71.
The aspect of Anderson’s bowling that has improved the most is probably his bowling against left-hand batsmen (as Shan Masood will testify). In his first 44 Tests, until the end of 2009, he gave away 41.44 runs per wicket against left-handers, compared to 31.44 against right-hand batsmen. Since 2014, the average against left-handers has halved, to 20.40.
Top of the class
Anderson’s average of 21.71 since the start of 2014 is the best among the 29 bowlers who have taken 100-plus wickets in this period.
He has obviously been a huge force in home Tests during this period, averaging 19.36 with a strike rate of 45.3, but his overseas numbers aren’t bad either: 89 wickets at an average of 26.28. He averages 29.3 in Australia, 25 in New Zealand, 30 in South Africa, 15.61 in the UAE and 20.4 in the West Indies. The two countries where he has struggled are India (53.5 in three Tests) and Sri Lanka (105 in two Tests). His overall average in Asia, though, is a respectable 31.25 (60 wickets in 22 Tests).
The head-to-head battles
Over the years, Anderson has had his share of battles against all the top batsmen of the era, and has emerged victorious in many of them. Two of the finest batsmen technically that he would have bowled to would be Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis, and against both he came out on top: Tendulkar was dismissed nine times and averaged 23.11 against him, while Kallis fared a shade better, with seven dismissals and an average of 25.28. Similarly, Kumar Sangakkara fell seven times as well, and averaged 28.14. Among the current stalwarts, Kane Williamson (average 21.66) and Cheteshwar Pujara (26.85) are among those who have come out second-best against Anderson quite often. And the batsman he dismissed to reach 600, Azhar Ali, has been dismissed nine times at an average of 20.66.
Even those averages, though, look pretty good when compared to the stats of two top-order left-hand batsmen from the subcontinent. Masood and Lahiru Thirimanne have collectively scored 72 runs off Anderson, and been dismissed by him a whopping 15 times.
However, there are others who have fared better against him. Virat Kohli averages a respectable 45, despite the horrors of 2014, the Australian duo of Ricky Ponting and Steven Smith average either side of 60, and South Africans Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers have done much better against him than Kallis, averaging around 70. However, the best among the lot is Hashim Amla, who has scored 398 runs off Anderson for just two dismissals.
Master of home conditions
In home Tests, only Muttiah Muralitharan has taken more wickets than Anderson’s 384. Since the start of 2010, there have been only two home seasons – 2012 and 2015 – when Anderson’s average has gone beyond 30; on the other hand, there were four seasons – 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2018 – when he conceded fewer than 20 runs per wicket in a home season. Those numbers showcase his outstanding control with the Dukes ball in familiar conditions.
Those numbers get even better in home wins: 256 wickets in 53 Tests, at 18.87; only Muralitharan and Anil Kumble have taken 200-plus wickets at a better average in home wins. Those numbers illustrate why, even at 38, Anderson remains such a feared bowler for opposition batsmen.
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