James Anderson’s record: How the record of highest wicket taker for England changed hands
Will James Anderson (right) become the first Englishman to take 400 test wickets? © Getty Images

James Anderson is now the highest wicket taker for England in Tests surpassing Ian Botham’s record of 383 wickets. Bharath-Seervi lists how this record changed hands since 1877.

James Anderson, who made his Test debut in May 22, 2003 at Lord’s against Zimbabwe, played his 100th Test against West Indies at North Sound on April 13, 2015. He became the 11th Englishman to play 100 Tests, and he also became England’s leading wicket taker in Tests.

Ian Botham held the record for the highest wicket-taker from England for nearly 30 years. He went past Bob Willis’ 325 wickets in June 1985, finished his career with 383 wickets and remained at the top for England for three decades until Anderson took over him in the recent Test. Botham took 383 wickets in 102 Tests while Anderson overcame him in his 100th Test.

England have been playing Test cricket since 1877. They had played the first Test in history, and have had various bowlers in their Test history of nearly 140 years. Therefore, the record for the highest wicket-taker has changed many hands. The table below lists about it.

Highest wicket taker for England – Progression of record

Bowler

Wickets

From

To

Number of days
Alfred Shaw 10 15-Mar-1877 17-Feb-1882 1,800
George Ulyett 14 17-Feb-1882 10-Mar-1882 21
Billy Bates 50 10-Mar-1882 30-Aug-1888 2,365
Bobby Peel 54 30-Aug-1888 11-Aug-1890 711
George Lohmann 74 11-Aug-1890 14-Aug-1893 1,099
Johnny Briggs 103 14-Aug-1893 21-Mar-1896 950
George Lohmann 112 01-Mar-1895 14-Jan-1898 664
Johnny Briggs 118 14-Jan-1898 08-Jul-1912 5,288
Sid Barnes 189 08-Jul-1912 11-Jun-1953 14,948
Alec Bedser 236 11-Jun-1953 25-Jan-1963 3,515
Brian Statham 242 25-Jan-1963 15-Mar-1963 49
Fred Trueman 307 15-Mar-1963 20-Jan-1984 7,616
Bob Willis 325 20-Jan-1984 27-Jun-1985 524
Ian Botham 383 27-Jun-1985 13-Apr-2015 10,882
James Anderson 384 13-Apr-1915

Alfred Shaw took eight wickets in the first ever Test, and was thus the highest wicket-taker for England at that point of time. He took two wickets in the next Test. No one took more than 10 wickets for England until the sixth Test in 1882 where George Ulyett finished with 14. In the eighth Test, Billy Bates took his 15th wicket to go past Ulyett. Bates held the record till his retirement and further.

Bates became the first English bowler to take 50 Test wickets in 1887 in the 26th Test. He ended his career with 50 wickets in 15 Tests in 1887, and held the record for most Test wickets for England till August 1888. Bobby Peel went past Bates, and also went on to take 100 wickets by 1896. But before him, Johnny Briggs and George Lohmann also took 100 wickets.

Lohmann overcame Bobby Peel with his 55th wicket in 1890 and held the record till 1893. Briggs chased Lohmann, and beat Lohmann to the 75th wicket in 1893. In 1895, Briggs became the first Englishman to take 100 Test wickets. He was the also the first bowler take 100 Test wickets as well. He retired with 118 wickets, but before that Lohmann beat him to the 104th wicket. Lohmann retired with 112 wickets from 18 Tests; Briggs took his 113th in 1898; and ended his career in 1899 with 118 wickets in 33 matches.

Sydney Barnes, who made his debut in 1901, soon got into the habits of taking wickets at a great rate. In 1912, he took 61 wickets from 9 Tests and in the process he went over Johnny Briggs’ 112 wickets. In the next year, he became the first bowler to take 150 test wickets and in 1914 — before World War I — he played his last Test to finish with figures of 189 wickets in 27 matches. There was no Englishman in over forty years (which included World War II) to take more than 189 wickets. He held the record for the longest span of time for England.

Alec Bedser was the one to take over Barnes in 1953. Bedser also became the first Englishman to take 200 test wickets. He retired in 1955 with 236 wickets to his name from 37 Tests. He was the highest wicket taker overall as well then. Brian Statham broke Bedser’s record in January 1963.

Fred Trueman got past his mate and bowling partner Statham a couple of months later. Trueman also became the first bowler to take 250 and 300 Test wickets in the world. He ended his career with a record 307 wickets. Willis became the second Englishman to take 300 wickets and also overcame Trueman in 1984. He finished his career with 325 wickets.

Botham took his 326th wicket in June 1985. He also became the first Englishman to take 350 wickets. He ended his career with 383 wickets and held the record till Anderson went past him.

Interestingly, the record changed hands between five players in the 32-year phase from 1953 to 1985 and only once in the 30-year span from 1985 to 2015.

Will Anderson become the first Englishman to take 400 test wickets? Who will go past him?

Let us wait and watch, not so soon for sure!

(Bharath Seervi is a cricket statistician who is obsessed with digging numbers, facts and records related to the game. An active member of Society of Cricket Statisticians of India, he blogs at www.cricketseervistats.blogspot.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @SeerviBharath and on Facebook here)