James Anderson is on the verge of adding to his list of record-breaking achievements by becoming England’s most-capped Test cricketer, yet when he made his debut in 2003 the Lancashire swing bowler thought he “wasn’t good enough”. Anderson will surpass the mark of 161 Tests he currently shares with retired former England captain Alastair Cook, a close friend, should he be included in the hosts’ side for the second and deciding match against New Zealand at Edgbaston starting Thursday.
His current tally of 616 Test wickets is the most by any England bowler, as well as being more than any other paceman in the history of the game.
The 38-year-old’s longevity is all the more remarkable given he is a seam bowler, a far more physically demanding task then that of being a spinner or an opening batsman like Cook.
Anderson’s career has been defined by his skill as much as by his endurance, however.
That makes his memory of his opening spell in Test cricket, against Zimbabwe at Lord’s 18 years ago, all the more striking, especially as it led to the first of 30 five-wicket hauls.
“I thought I wasn’t good enough,”Anderson recalled. “My first ball was a no-ball so there were a lot of nerves there and I did feel like this was maybe a step too far for me at that point.
“No disrespect to Zimbabwe but playing against teams like South Africa and Australia and India — once you put in performances against the top teams in the world, that’s when you can feel like you can actually perform at that level.”
A stress fracture kept Anderson, who had been reduced to bowling at cones during practice sessions, out of action as England assembled the pace attack of Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones that would help them win the celebrated 2005 Ashes series.
Anderson’s distinctive action was also subjected to some unwelcome interference by England backroom staff.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve overcome little hurdles throughout my career and they’ve made me stronger,” said Anderson.
“That stress fracture was probably a godsend. It made me go back to my old action and since then I’ve felt really comfortable and got more consistent.”
But whether Anderson and longtime new-ball partner Stuart Broad both play at Edgbaston remains uncertain given England also have a five-match series at home to India before trying to regain the Ashes in Australia.
England will have to make at least one change after Sussex paceman Ollie Robinson, who enjoyed an impressive on-field debut, at Lord’s, was suspended for racist and sexist tweets he had posted as a teenager.
New Zealand too will field an altered XI.
Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson, the world’s number one-ranked Test batsman, has been omitted as he rests an elbow injury in the hope of being fit for next week’s inaugural World Test Championship final against India at Southampton, with spinner Mitchell Santner (cut finger) sidelined as well.
Tom Latham takes over as captain, with Will Young the new number three.
New Zealand left-arm quick Trent Boult is set to return, having missed the match at Lord’s — where debutant opener Devon Conway scored a superb 200 — to spend time with his family following the suspension of the Indian Premier League.
Boult’s overall record of 281 wickets in 71 Tests includes 21, at an average of just over 23 apiece, from four matches in England.
“I think he is clever, a smart bowler with a number of different skills,” said England captain Joe Root.
“His record speaks for itself, he swings the new ball and brings the stumps into play.”
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