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On Thursday, when the entire Lord’s was awaiting for the James Anderson-moment, Ben Stokes stole the thunder that turned out to be his career-best Test figures. Anderson remained stranded on 299 wickets while Stokes got 6. Before the third and final Test, Anderson was just 3 shy from joining the ‘500 club’. The moment arrived. On Friday, after Stokes and Stuart Broad had given England a valuable first-inning lead of 71, it was Anderson who fittingly made the breakthrough. It took Anderson just 12 deliveries to become the sixth bowler and third paceman to enter the 500-wicket club. His arms outstretched in celebration proved that the wait was worthwhile indeed.

The priced scalp was of Kraigg Brathwaite, who was the architect behind West Indies victory in Headingley. Brathwaite’s wicket meant Anderson was the only active cricketer in a 500-club consisting of the spin trio of Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Australia’s Shane Warne (708) and India’s Anil Kumble (619). Amongst the pacers he is just behind Australia’s Glenn McGrath (563) and West Indian legend Courtney Walsh (519). With Anderson wanting to play long enough, he may well end up with most wickets for a fast bowler, surpassing McGrath

Journey to 500 wickets

Anderson, who is playing his 129th Test, sees his career complete a circle. It was at the Lord’s when Anderson made his Test debut against Zimbabwe in 2003. Anderson bagged a five-for in his first innings. He even made it to the Lord’s honours board. It was the 18th ball that Anderson bowled in Test cricket and his first victim was Zimbabwe’s opener Mark Vermuelen.

Off 7 Tests that Anderson had played, he scalped 26 wickets at an average of 31 against Zimbabwe and South Africa. Injuries hampered Anderson’s progress. He marched to his 100th Test wicket in 2008. It came against South Africa. The wicket was the prized scalp of Jacques Kallis.

Kallis was the victim, trapping him for 2. It was Anderson’s 29th Test and he ended the series with career Test wicket tally of 104 at 34.51. Although he got Kallis for the first time, Anderson went on dismiss Kallis on 6 more occasions in the future. After 29 Tests, Anderson had 104 wickets at 34.51.

It was over to Anderson’s favourite bunny – Peter Siddle. Australia’s combative quick bowler has been dismissed by Anderson on 11 occasions over the years. In an era of high scoring and The Ashes 2010, Anderson could not have found a better opportunity to reach his 200th Test wicket. Anderson’s victim would have been Steven Smith had the DRS not saved him.

Anderson reached the 200-club in his 55th Test, at Perth. His bowling average had come down to 31.76. England managed to win the Ashes 2010-11, a performance they will hope to replicate this year as well.

Two-and-half years later, Anderson picked his 300th wicket at the ‘Home of cricket’ Lord’s. During the New Zealand series, Anderson became the fourth Englishman when he had Peter Fulton caught at the second slip. Anderson slowly and steadily was following the footsteps of the stalwarts such as Fred Trueman, Bob Willis and Ian Botham. Ahead of Fulton’s wicket, Anderson was just two wickets away from the milestone. His 299th wicket was Hamish Rutherford. It was his 81st Test and his average had come down to 30.

 

Designed by Shreyas Dulam
Designed by Shreyas Dulam

In less than 2 years post entering the 300-club, Anderson went on to create the English record when he surpassed Ian Botham’s magic number of 383. On recollecting his favourite top 5 Test wickets from his career, Anderson claimed the 384th wicket to be one of them. It was also his 100th Test appearance. Botham had taken 383 wickets in 102 Tests between 1977 and 1992. Anderson not only bettered the record but also got the feat at the right time when England were looking for victory in the first Test of the 3-match series. Anderson levelled with Botham nipping Marlon Samuels at gully. However, he waited again to remove Denesh Ramdin, the then West Indies captain.

In the same year, the 400th wicket came. Rain had all plans to hamper Anderson’s party. However, there was nothing stopping this champion. England entered the second Test with a victory at Lord’s. Anderson was just one away from 400 and to become England’s first bowler to secure this feat. Winning the toss, it took just took eight deliveries for the pacer to gain another success under his belt. New Zealand’s Martin Guptill edged a full delivery to Ian Bell at the second slip and one could see Anderson celebrating in full-swing. By now Anderson’s average had come below 30.

As time went by, Anderson battled ankle injury. He missed the Bangladesh series as well as the first Test against India in 2016. On return, he rattled South Africa and walloped Dean Elgar, to reach 300 Test wickets at home. Elgar, the stand-in captain, handed Anderson a world-record as he became the first fast bowler in the history of world cricket to take 300 wickets in their home country.

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With Brathwaite’s wicket, Anderson not only reached 500 wickets but also the first Englishman to reach this stage. As mentioned on The Burnley Express, Anderson now has 329 wickets at home while the remaining 171 are scattered across the globe. At Lord’s where Anderson got to the prestigious ‘500 club’, he holds 84 wickets.

Anderson’s immediate goal will be to help England win the series against West Indies and then plan for the Ashes, whose build-up has already begun. He has 43 wickets in Australia but they have come at a high average of 38.44. Before hanging up his boots, the 35-year-old will look forward to better his records Down Under.