James Anderson could keep on bowling at his best in Test cricket until he is 40, according to England’s head coach Trevor Bayliss, in the wake of Anderson’s starring role in the second Test win over India at Lord’s on Sunday.
Anderson, 36, cemented his place at the top of the ICC World Rankings with a match haul of 9 for 43, and in attaining a career-high points total of 903, he became the first England bowler since Ian Botham in 1980 to cross the 900 mark.
In so doing, he helped carry England to their third Test win in a row this summer, and a 2-0 lead over an Indian team whose highest score of the match was R Ashwin’s second-innings 33 not out.
None of Anderson’s opponents looked remotely comfortable against his relentless combination of high-class swing and seam and probing line and length, and asked if he was surprised that England’s attack leader was maintaining such high standards even after his 36th birthday, Bayliss admitted that yes, he had been somewhat taken aback.
“If you compare him with other bowlers around the world, yeah,” he said. “A lot of other bowlers do start to drop off in their mid-thirties or so. It’s only the very, very best that are able to keep it going. I think he’s showing that he is the very, very best.
“He’s not just good when the conditions suit him, but in these conditions he’s the best in the world. It’s a test for any batsman in the world to try to face him in these conditions.”
Anderson was already 33 when Bayliss took charge of England’s fortunes in the summer of 2015, and he might therefore have expected to be overseeing a changing of the guard among England’s new-ball bowlers. But in Anderson’s case in particular, the economy of his approach to the wicket, coupled with the careful management of a bowler who has not played in white-ball cricket since the 2015 World Cup, has given the impression that he could go on forever.
“I don’t think there’s any age [when he’s too old],” said Bayliss. “He’s fit and keeps himself fit. As long as he keeps his body fit there’s no reason why he can’t go on for three or four years.
“Let’s wait and see! He keeps surprising everyone. At the moment, the last 12-18 months, he has had a shoulder problem, but at the moment he seems to have got over that pretty well and he just bowls and bowls and bowls. Hopefully that continues for a few years yet.”
It wasn’t just Anderson among England’s bowlers who thrived in the swinging conditions at Lord’s, however. Stuart Broad enjoyed a four-wicket burst to break open India’s second innings, while Chris Woakes was named Man of the Match after capping a superb performance with the ball with his maiden Test hundred.
For a man not given to overt shows of emotion, Bayliss’s reaction to Woakes’ hundred was notably effusive, and he admitted afterwards that he had been particularly pleased for one of the genuine nice guys of world cricket.
“Woakesy is one of those guys who is very well respected in the team,” Bayliss said. “He has done a lot of hard yards, not just with the ball but with the bat over the last few years too. He’s a lovely bloke, and one of those guys who everyone genuinely wants to do well, so to see him go out there and do so well when we thought we were in a bit of trouble, to go and play the way he did with Jonny [Bairstow] was fantastic, and the boys were very happy for him.”
Woakes had only stepped into the starting XI due to Ben Stokes’ ongoing court case in Bristol, and Bayliss admitted that the manner in which he had taken his chance in the side could prove to be the making of him as a Test cricketer.
“After Anderson and Broad, who put so much pressure on the opposition, there could be a bit of relaxation, ‘awh good, they’re off’, but the other guy who comes on is just as good in these conditions. He might catch a few off guard, but I thought he bowled beautifully in this game. His command of line and length with some away swing was fantastic.”
However, Bayliss also cautioned that the real challenge for Woakes – as with many of England’s players – would come overseas. So says www.thecricketblog.info
“There’s no reason why he can’t [succeed],” he said. “Lord’s would have to be his favourite ground, and the challenge for him is away from home, as it is for a lot of the boys, being able to do that away from home. At the moment we are playing at home and we look forward to some more success.
“When the ball is swinging around [India] have some difficulties, as it is when it’s spinning and we go to the subcontinent. It’s a challenge for any team to play in conditions you’re not used to and some of them are struggling a little bit. They have some extremely good players so our job is to try and stay on top.”