600: Rise of the Umpire’s Finger

Minimal play on the final day, a match ruined by rain and bad weather led it to peter out in a draw, and a 1-0 win for England.  In reality, that was always likely, and as much as anything else it was about whether James Anderson would have the opportunity to bowl and take that elusive 600th Test wicket.  It was more of an issue than would usually be the case, at 38 years old and with the world struggling under the load of Covid-19, there was always the possibility that he wouldn’t get another chance.  All things being equal, he will probably be around for a little while yet, but injury could have intervened, and no one can be entirely sure whether planned tours will go ahead.  Considered overall, it is better to have it out of the way now, both for him personally and to prevent any danger of selectors and public having an eye on him being stranded on 599.

There will always be debate about where particular players stand in the pantheon of leading performers.  It isn’t helped by the tendency in the modern world to assign labels of greatest ever far too frequently, leading to irritation and a push back against it.  It doesn’t matter.  It has never mattered.  Only one person can ever be given that epithet by any individual, making it by definition exclusionary and rarely a considered statement.  Anderson’s overall record is hampered by a difficult start to his Test career, his first hundred wickets coming at an average of 35 meaning that even as thereafter it dropped dramatically it wasn’t until ten years after his debut that it dipped below 30.   It has continued to fall ever since, best highlighted in a tweet from Tim Wigmore:


It’s 12 years since he took that 100th wicket, it’s 7 years since he took his 300th.  Longevity is an achievement in itself, particularly for a seam bowler for whom the physicality of bowling is in itself a major challenge, but his record over the last ten years or more is world class and world class over longer than the vast majority of whole Test careers.

His record is markedly better in England than it is overseas, but this is neither surprising nor should it be used as more than an observation, and certainly not a stick with which to beat him.  He is a product of English cricket and his skills are necessarily geared to where he plays most.  He’s not the first to have such a differential and won’t be the last – it is an extremely rare (and great) bowler indeed to be equally successful in all conditions, and as someone who relies on swing, being stuck with the Kookaburra ball abroad will necessarily reduce his effectiveness dramatically.

Moreover, in a time when Test cricket is under ever increasing threat, his only likely challenger as top wicket taker for a pace bowler is Stuart Broad, his long term opening partner.  England play more Test matches than anyone else, but even in England colours it is increasingly hard to imagine someone other than Broad from anywhere matching his longevity, fitness and wicket taking prowess.

Above all else, Anderson on song has been a joy to watch.  If the true pleasure of sport at the highest level is to witness human beings operating in a manner entirely foreign to ordinary mortals, then Anderson’s ability to have the ball on a piece on a string and to make accomplished batsmen look stupid is a rare one indeed.  There is nothing brutal about his bowling, although in his early years he was undoubtedly sharp, but there is the consistent ability to dismantle techniques and cause high quality batsmen to appear to be out of their depth.  Numbers don’t always explain that, but any who remember watching the intelligence of Richard Hadlee’s bowling will see a modern day echo of that in Anderson.

It would have been nice had there been a crowd to watch him do it, it would have been nicer still for him to have had his family there to share it with him.  But above all he got the chance to do it at all, and that is where endless thanks for the Test summer we have had must go to Pakistan and the West Indies.  A rarity on here it may be, but credit should also be paid to the ECB, for back in April any kind of cricket seemed a distant prospect.  Self-interest, of course it was, but self-interest that did provide a glimpse of a path back to some kind of normality, and that benefits us all.

There will be endless tributes to James Anderson from better people than me, some will go too far, some will cause irritation elsewhere in the world at the positioning of him at the head of a pack of great fast bowlers.  I don’t care.  Anderson has been grumpy, sometimes infuriating to watch (too short, too wide was a regular complaint), sometimes excused for actions other players would not have got away with.  But he’s also been a magician with a cricket ball, a player who has lasted when so many fell by the wayside, undoubtedly one of the greatest English Test bowlers of all time, and someone who has got a player out 600 times in Test cricket.  That’s one hell of a lot of raised umpire’s fingers.



38 thoughts on “600: Rise of the Umpire’s Finger

  1. Miami Dad's Six Aug 25, 2020 / 7:42 pm

    Pakistan were worthy tourists and will be kicking themselves that they threw away the first test. Ultimately it was the bowling attack that didn’t click for them, which wasn’t expected – but there is enough potential there for them to be far more threatening next time around.

    Anderson – it’s a phenomenal achievement. He’s not as good as many of the great fast bowlers. He’s far, far better than many more really good fast bowlers. In England on greentops especially, but he also had a few away series on low, slow pitches where he harnessed reverse swing to unbelievable effect. One thing worth mentioning is that we definitely gave him enough chances to develop. I am really quick to write players off after a handful of Tests – both Jimmy and Broad show that to be premature. Maybe Overton might be a good Test bowler yet. Maybe Woakes might be OK away from home. Maybe Wood might be a good long term option. Actually, scrap that last one, I don’t want to look stupid.


  2. Miami Dad's Six Aug 25, 2020 / 7:46 pm

    Also, well done all for the blog, keeping it going.

    I sort of got out the habit of replying, with the break in cricket, but I always go out of my way to read. It’s really well written and better for having the range of, ahem, “columnists”.

    Raise your bats to another English Test summer complete.


    • thelegglance Aug 25, 2020 / 7:51 pm

      Thank you. To be honest I get a bit bored doing the match ones, I find the stuff outside of that more interesting. I have one on the books for later in the week that I’m enjoying doing rather more.


      • quebecer Sep 9, 2020 / 6:59 pm

        Hi Chris. Hope you’re well. Ca I just say that although it’s not your fav, your writing of the match reports are, in my opinion, as good as anything anywhere. Just so you know.


    • Zephirine Aug 26, 2020 / 7:45 pm

      Seconded. I find I don’t have much to say about cricket at the moment, but I keep reading the blog and do appreciate it.


  3. Metatone Aug 25, 2020 / 8:21 pm

    Given the constraints of scheduling, we might even count ourselves lucky not to have lost more play to prolonged rain – so I’ll stay thankful that we got a decent series in and think that 1-0 was probably about the right score. Pakistan will feel they let some chances go, but as England fans know all too well a couple of bad sessions is easily enough to put you in the hole.

    I’m glad for Jimmy. I might have selected him for fewer overseas games, but totally agree that there have been some utterly magic spells with the swinging ball. Also I’m all too aware that to stay fit at 38 – is he really 6 years younger than me? – well, to stay fit as age advances takes some real commitment.


  4. rpoultz Aug 26, 2020 / 2:04 pm

    Can only commend James Anderson on his longevity and commitment since his debut to reach 600 wickets. As mentioned staying fit for this long is an achievement in itself. I am nearing 35 and have found it hard to complete a full season with various niggles etc so how he keeps going at such a high standard is remarkable.

    I think any ensuing debate on Sky over his ‘greatness’ or where he sits in regards to other fast bowlers is pointless. It wouldn’t be conducted with any nuance or understanding. A really sad fact is that, from looking at the list, is that Dale Steyn only played 93 tests. While his body has let him down in recent years I think he should have played at least another 10-15 tests during his ‘peak’. Scheduling is perhaps to blame for that one.

    While the international summer isn’t over that is the test summer gone in the blink of an eye and we were really lucky to get games in. I am not sure England would have learned anything really other than Zak Crawley can clearly bat at this level but will need to kick on from here. It will be an interesting selection dilemma when Stokes returns although they will probably drop a bowler. The bowling is the same as its ever been as when conditions suit then they are a handful for anyone. I still have no idea how we are looking to take 20 wickets in Asia or Australia. Was very disappointing yesterday to see Archer having to bowl into the wind. Made no sense whatsoever for a team looking to take quick wickets but it probably sums up Archer’s treatment since entering test cricket. As on the previous post I have issues with the selection of Bess and cannot believe he is the best spinner in England.

    Looking forward to seeing some blast games so hopefully the weather allows for it.


    • dannycricket Aug 26, 2020 / 9:06 pm

      No idea why, but this ended up in our spam folder. WordPress is strange sometimes…


  5. rpoultz Aug 26, 2020 / 2:16 pm

    Andersons feat is a remarkable achievement and one that shows that age is only a number if you a motivated and can stay fit. England will be poorer for when he decides to hang up to the boots and will have a massive hole to fill. I struggle to complete a full season at nearly 35 so for him to be still performing at a high level nearing 40 is a fantastic site. I think the post is spot on to say that Broad and Anderson are not finished yet. However, I do think that their exits from international cricket should still be something England look to manage in the near future. Archer and Woakes should be getting new ball experience in my opinion and if we are not a little careful we could be left with bowlers who have very little experience in conditions and situations which have been dominated by Broad and Anderson.

    I think England would have learned very little again from this summer and least of all how to take 20 wickets in Asia and Australia. As ever when conditions suit, which they have done for most of this summer, Englands attack is a handful for anyone. Our trump cards, apparently, overseas are going to be Archer and Wood. Archer bowling into the wind yesterday when we needed wickets to attempt to force a victory sums up his management by England and Root, and Wood just played one test all summer and didn’t look threatening in that. Additionally, as I put on a previous post, the inclusion of Bess in the side is baffling and doesn’t look a threat with the ball.


    • Mark Aug 26, 2020 / 10:25 pm

      Here’s a what if? question re Anderson and Broad,

      Which bowlers would you drop from the 2005 Ashes to accommodate them? On stats you have to play them. So which of Harmison, Hoggard, Jones, and Flintoff would you replace?

      The logic would be Harmison and Hoggard. Flintoff was the all rounder, and Jones was at times unplayable.

      For the record I would not replace any of them. But then I’m biased! They did the job so why change? You might mess up the dynamic of the team.

      You would also have to replace Strauss or Trescothick with Cook. Based on stats.

      I’ll get my coat………


      • rpoultz Aug 27, 2020 / 7:21 am

        It’s a good question. I am biased and of course like most fans in love with that particular series and team.

        Can I sit on the fence and say for one series I wouldn’t have changed any of it as the bowlers did the job at that time? Overall, they would of course get in a modern day England best XI and Harmison and Hoggard would unfortunately be replaced for them.

        Overall, I don’t think anyone would dispute Anderson or Broad as Englands finest for a generation but, and I said this before the Liew article dropped, where are England going with them. Possibly by the time the next test rolls around Anderson could be 39 and Broad 35 and the team in the same situation of being good in England but wondering how to take 20 wickets elsewhere.

        Cook…please don’t go there haha!


  6. dannycricket Aug 26, 2020 / 8:33 pm

    As if he hasn’t provided enough entertainment recently, Stuart Broad is absolutely teeing off at Jonathan Liew on Twitter for suggesting that this has been a “wasted summer”.


    • Miami Dad's Six Aug 26, 2020 / 9:22 pm

      Broad and Anderson both replying. You’d think two blokes with 1000 Test wickets and a combined age of 190 would be capable of rising above a minorly critical article.


      • dannycricket Aug 26, 2020 / 9:39 pm

        To be fair, they’re both Test specialists and their next Tests will likely be next year. They have to find some way to fill the time.


      • thelegglance Aug 26, 2020 / 11:30 pm

        I don’t mind it in truth. The hacks get to have their say, why shouldn’t the players answer them back? I can’t abide the way the media have that tendency to set themselves above everyone else and dispense wisdom from on high. It’s no bad thing to have them brought down a peg or two in my eyes. Your mileage may vary!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Marek Aug 26, 2020 / 11:57 pm

      If they’re going to pick issues with that argument, they probably need to back it up with performances this winter–and even then they might be missing the point. Because as Rpoultz suggests above, it’s quite possible that England could go into the Ashes doing exactly what they vowed not to do in January 2018: not really having a clue if they have an attack that can bowl Australia out.

      They know that Broad, who has a variable record in Australia, will be 35. They know it could be the moment (or after the moment) that it’s a series too far for Anderson (if he plays, he’ll be the oldest test seamer since 1961). Although Wood is a much better bowler than in 2017, he’s not much more likely than then to be able to play more than three tests in the series.

      Meanwhile, Robinson and Mahmood have never played a test, Overton hasn’t played an overseas one since just after the last Ashes, they have no idea how to get Stone on the field for longer than a month at a time, Curran doesn’t look like an overseas match-winner, Woakes has played two overseas tests since the last Ashes (although he’s been rather unlucky also with illness, injury and cancellations), and they have no really obvious match-winning spinners.

      So they’re a couple of injuries–both to players who can easily be overbowled into injury–away from having a very popgun attack. They really need to maximise their findings from this winter’s tours, always assuming they happen–which is going to require some fairly imaginative selection I would think, and quite possibly some which Broad and/or Anderson aren’t going to be terribly keen on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance Aug 26, 2020 / 11:59 pm

        Ok, it’s a fair argument. But cast your mind back 18 months, and I remember writing on here about how the cupboard looked horrendously bare post Anderson and Broad. Now it’s more a question of when and how they are gently eased aside. In terms of bringing players in, it could be said that it’s been done rather well, no?


        • rpoultz Aug 27, 2020 / 7:30 am

          I think you’re right that the bowling stocks look a little fuller than they did 18-24 months ago.

          The situation now is do England have two bowlers who can bowl as well as Anderson and Broad in England. Probably not although it would be good to see Woakes/Archer get the new ball or bowl in the game situations that Anderson and Broad do.

          On the other hand though if you can transition into the ‘new’ attack in a home series you can at the very least get the players used to test match cricket and the levels required. Of course I can see that still probably wont prepare you for a flat one in Mumbai or Adelaide. However, having that little bit of experience of test cricket can only be a good thing or you will probably have the situation of throwing 1/2 bowlers into the mix when England are at a familiar 2 nil down and looking for a miracle on debut.


          • thelegglance Aug 27, 2020 / 10:40 am

            Did you see the interview with Anderson after the Test? They kind of put that point to him, particularly about overseas. His answer was that he didn’t think it was especially fair to just rock up in friendly conditions in England and let others do the hard work in India, which is the right answer for an individual of course, but also not exactly the strongest case for selection to do a particular job. He wasn’t insisting he was the best choice for that role, just that he’s happy to do it.

            Could be reading too much into it, but it seemed an acceptance of where he is and what needs to happen in future. I guess there’s a big difference between having those two available for England overseas which is welcome, and having them the automatic pick overseas which is what we need to move away from.

            I tend to think Broad is more suitable for that role much of the time. His Australia record for example is fairly decent, not so much objectively, but that even when England were getting battered, he was by miles the best England bowler.


          • rpoultz Aug 27, 2020 / 11:03 am

            I didn’t see that interview. Yeah, agree there isn’t much of a different answer to give there but then as you say it isn’t the most compelling argument that’s been made.

            Perhaps but then I have seen some articles that he said he is looking to 700 wickets and another crack at Australia? Again, I don’t know how true they are but I think if he would be truly honest he would say he would, at best, be a containing bowler in Australia which isn’t really what we need out there. Although, he is a top level sportsman who will think he can still do it so I cant fault him really for having belief in himself even if evidence/history is against him.

            I think Broad not having to rely on swing or exaggerated movement to take wickets helps him overseas. So when it does stop moving after the opening overs he does have the skills to continue to be a threat.


          • thelegglance Aug 27, 2020 / 11:08 am

            Agreed. Though let me lob this one at you: I do think that Anderson being considered as a support bowler for somewhere like Australia (it’s ages away, I’m thinking as if it were now) could have some merit. The Bresnan role if you like. If the thinking is in terms of what is needed as the spearheads but an Anderson as third or fourth seamer then it’s a very different mentality to going in with him and Broad as the opening attack. Not to say you then choose both, or even either, but it is a different kind of thinking.


          • dannycricket Aug 27, 2020 / 6:07 pm

            Anderson’s record in Australia is very mixed, with a series average of either under 30 (2017/18 & 2010/11) or over 40 (2013/14 & 2006/07). His overall bowling average there is 35.43, which is higher than Finn, Tremlett, Bresnan and Stokes.

            Stuart Broad’s figures down under are not entirely impressive either. He averaged 27.52 in 2013/14, but 47.72 in the most recent series.

            One thing which might count against Anderson is that his performance in 2017/18 is the most overs bowled by an English pace bowler in a series this century. With flat, batting-friendly roads common in Australia, picking a 39 year old seems a little risky.


        • rpoultz Aug 27, 2020 / 12:46 pm

          It’s an interesting thought that one and I’ve never considered such a role for Anderson. Generally speaking there would be nothing to think that could not work. I think Anderson, to his detriment sometimes, has bowled not to concede runs rather than attack so I am sure he could do a containing role. A couple of reservations would be that for that role the bowler normally can bat at a higher standard than Anderson. So as you mention Bresnan and in recent times probably like Woakes and Curran who aren’t spearheads of the attack. So the balance of the side would be a concern The second one would be physically still and whether he would be able to do that roll over a 4/5 test periods and bowl those longer spells again and again.

          Honestly though it is a really interesting idea to use him in such a way. I don’t think England would consider that though.


    • dlpthomas Aug 27, 2020 / 11:48 am

      Since we’re talking about twitter, I rather liked Mike Selvey’s (never said that before) comment about Tony Abbott

      “Tony Abbott? Tony effing Abbott? If that was part of the deal for @CricketAus to send a side here, you can take them straight back.”

      No backsies – he’s your problem now.


      • dArthez Aug 28, 2020 / 8:04 pm

        Yet he had no problem with Giles Clarke wining and dining with the local area strongman in Sri Lanka … and I suspect he had not that many problems with the most of the rebel tourists either.

        So what has Tony Abbott done? He can’t have shot Bambi.

        Liked by 1 person

        • dannycricket Aug 28, 2020 / 8:35 pm

          Weren’t half of the Rebel tourists his teammates from Middlesex?


  7. Marek Aug 30, 2020 / 12:19 pm

    …if it’s Tuesday, it must be a restructuring of the County Championship….


  8. dArthez Sep 5, 2020 / 11:06 am

    If it was not that the annual ‘we don’t play Australia-England enough’ trophy, but rather an important game, people would have thought South Africa executed the perfect choke in that T20 yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dlpthomas Sep 6, 2020 / 1:04 pm

      I still can’t get my head around how Australia lost that game. I’d like to Riley Meredith play in the next one.


    • dArthez Sep 13, 2020 / 8:26 pm

      Another game, another choke.


      • dlpthomas Sep 14, 2020 / 10:32 am

        That really was a bad loss.


  9. dlpthomas Sep 6, 2020 / 4:00 pm

    Archer looks a different bowler when playing 20/20.


  10. dlpthomas Sep 11, 2020 / 1:34 pm

    Warne talking about Slade and Deep Purple. Maybe he’s not as bad as I thought.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s