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Jimmy Anderson: his six best wickets for England, from Ponting to Sharma

<span>(Left to right) Jimmy Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of Aaron Redmond in 2008, a five-fer in the first Ashes Test of 2013 and bowling Rohit Sharma during the second Test against India in February 2024.</span><span>Composite: Getty Images; Reuters</span>


<span>(Left to right) Jimmy Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of Aaron Redmond in 2008, a five-fer in the first Ashes Test of 2013 and bowling Rohit Sharma during the second Test against India in February 2024.</span><span>Composite: Getty Images; Reuters</span>

(Left to right) Jimmy Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of Aaron Redmond in 2008, a five-fer in the first Ashes Test of 2013 and bowling Rohit Sharma during the second Test against India in February 2024.Composite: Getty Images; Reuters

Wicket 81: Aaron Redmond, Trent Bridge 2008

Before Jimmy Anderson arrived in 2003, most English swing bowlers were hard-faced brawlers who harassed the outside edge. Anderson introduced us to sexy cricket: the boyband looks, the Freddie Ljungberg-tribute hair and most of all the stump-busting outswingers to the right-hander. That delivery defined the first phase of his career, when he was erratic but exhilarating and there was sometimes a whiff of accidental magic. The most spectacular demonstration was at Trent Bridge against New Zealand in 2008, when Anderson took seven for 43 to settle the game and the series.

The first wicket was the best. Aaron Redmond saw the ball angling towards his pads and rolled his wrists to help himself to some free runs. A split second later his off stump was in a different postcode. Anderson had hoodwinked Redmond with his deadliest weapon: late swing at pace. To prove he knew exactly what he was doing, he bowled Brendon McCullum with an identical delivery 20 minutes later. It would be a couple of years before Anderson became the complete bowler, but this was a sign that, for opposition batters, his brain was becoming as dangerous as his wrist.

Wicket 191: Ricky Ponting, Adelaide 2010

The Australian leg-spinner Arthur Mailey was once asked why he gave tips to opposition bowlers. “Spin is an art,” he replied, “and art is universal.” So is swing and seam bowling. Anderson was probably too shy to approach his fellow artists, so he studied them and wore his influences with pride: hiding the ball if it was reverse-swinging (Zaheer Khan), the leg- cutter (Stuart Broad) and most of all, the wobble-seam delivery (Mohammad Asif).

Asif mesmerised England’s batters in the summer of 2010, and a fascinated Anderson worked constantly on his own version with the bowling coach David Saker. It turned him from Jimmy Clouderson, as he was disparagingly known, into an all-weather bowler who was comfortably the leading wicket taker when England won the Ashes in Australia that winter. The wobble-seamer was designed to make Anderson dangerous with the old ball, but it also enhanced his new-ball threat. In the first over of the second Test at Adelaide, Anderson had Ricky Ponting caught in the slips first ball to reduce Australia to an unimaginable zero for two. There was another key aspect to the wicket: the wobble ball would have been no good had Anderson sprayed it everywhere, as he sometimes did at the start of his career. By 2010, aged 27, he was developing a formidable control of line and length. The ball to Ponting – who pushed with hard hands early on, especially when he was out of form – was exactly what England had discussed in their pre-match meeting. It was a triumph of skill, intelligence, discipline – and unashamed plagiarism.

Wicket 317: Brad Haddin, Trent Bridge 2013

The first Ashes Test of 2013 is a forgotten classic, full of magic, controversy and exquisite tension. England won by 14 runs and went on to take the series 3-0, so the significance of those five days at Trent Bridge faded in the memory. Yet it remains the most Homeric performance of Anderson’s career, a triumph of will and skill on an unrewarding, almost subcontinental pitch. He took five wickets in each inning and, in the words of Stuart Broad, “won the game on his own”.

In the first innings he bowled the Australian captain Michael Clarke with a staggering delivery, another wobble-seamer; in the second, on a nerve-shredding Sunday morning, he took all four wickets that England needed. Anderson bowled 13 overs in a row to leave Australia nine down, then – after an almighty scare while he was out of the attack – returned to have Brad Haddin caught behind with the subtlest of off-cutters. It was the game in which he went from good to great. Even the stats had a bit of symbolism: after years of excellence, Anderson finally dragged his Test average below 30.

Wickets 609 and 610: Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane, Chennai 2021

By the end of his career Anderson was more dangerous overseas than at home, even if nobody called him Jimmy Sunderson. In the last five years he has averaged 29 in England and 20 overseas, bowling with surgical precision on flat pitches.

He knew exactly which implements to use and when. England’s win at Chennai in 2021 – the most improbable of his whole career – was set up by an immense over from Anderson on the final morning. In the space of three deliveries he bowled Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane with reverse inswingers. He was 38 years old and it was not even his last tour of India. All the other seamers in England’s history have between them taken a single wicket on the subcontinent after the age of 35. Anderson picked up 33. Asia is no continent for old men, but it’s not so bad if you’re an old don.

Wicket 694: Rohit Sharma, Visakhapatnam 2024

Seam bowling experts on X (Test record: zero wickets at zero) decreed that Anderson was finished after a disappointing Ashes last summer. He knew he had been under-par but also unlucky. More to the point, the raging perfectionist in him could not countenance going out like that. So he spent the next six months working like a dog on his fitness and developing a new run-up ahead of the toughest gig of all: India away.

When he came into the team for the second Test at Visakhapatnam, Anderson showed instantly, emphatically, that he still had it. He finished the match with figures of 35 for five and 76 for five, including a peach to take Rohit Sharma’s off stump for a walk during a majestic spell on the third morning. It was the definition of unplayable, swinging in and then seaming away. As his career progressed the nick-off became Anderson’s most common dismissal, but he never lost the ability to strip a batter naked, and he never stopped exploring new ways to do it.



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