James Anderson looks set to be a Test cricketer for at least another 18 months after revealing the England management have asked him to play on until after the next Ashes series.
While there has been speculation at times this summer that Anderson, now aged 38, might consider retiring after he reached the milestone of 600 Test wickets, he insisted he has no such intentions.
Instead, he has reiterated his belief he still has plenty “to offer this [England] team” and suggested the 700-wicket mark may even be within his reach.
Although rain prevented any play on the final day in Southampton until 4.15pm, Anderson became the first seamer in Test history to claim 600 wickets in his third over of the day and afterwards revealed he had already talked to England captain, Joe Root, about that Ashes tour.
“I’ve chatted to Joe about this a little bit and he has said he would like me to be in Australia,” Anderson said. “I don’t see any reason why I can’t be. I’m working hard on my fitness all the time. I’m working hard on my game.
“I didn’t bowl as well as I’d have liked for the whole summer. But in this Test I was really on it and I feel like I’ve still got stuff to offer this team. As long as I still feel like that I think I’ll keep going. I don’t think I’ve won my last Test matches as an England cricketer yet.
“Can I reach 700? Why not?”
Anderson will be 39 by the time the next Ashes series is scheduled to begin. And while it is unheard of, in modern times, for a seamer to undertake such a tour at such an age, Anderson has defied convention and expectations for much of his career. He claimed the 29th five-for of his Test career during the final Test against Pakistan – only Richard Hadlee has ever taken more among seam bowlers – to underline his enduring quality and it is clear his hunger for the challenge remains unsated.
“We’re still in the Test championship,” Anderson said. “There are still series ahead of us and Test matches to win. That’s all I’m really interested in.
“I still love turning up every day at training, putting in the hard yards and being in the dressing room with the lads trying to forge a win for England. That’s all I’ve really ever bothered about and what I’ll keep trying to do. I’ll keep working hard in the gym and keeping myself available for selection.
“There will be decisions along the way with the selectors and coach and captain around how the team moves forward but as long as they want me around I’ll keep working hard and try to prove I’m good enough to play in this team.”
Those “decisions along the way” are likely to involve rest and rotation. England are eager to provide more opportunity to the likes of Mark Wood, who only played one Test this summer, and Jofra Archer, who was rarely given the opportunity to take the new ball due to the presence of Anderson and Stuart Broad. Both Wood and Archer, and perhaps Olly Stone, too, are seen as key players for England on Australian pitches.
In the shorter-term, England are hoping to play two Tests in Sri Lanka in January and then four or five against India after that. Anderson struggled on England’s previous tour of Sri Lanka – he claimed just one wicket in the two Tests he played – but actually has a decent record in India (his average in the country, 33.46, is better than Zaheer Khan’s, 35.87) and even better in the UAE, where the series could be played. Either way, he accepts there may be situations in which he is left out.
“I am sure I will have to be a little bit wise about which games I play and which I don’t,” Anderson said. “That’s something for the selectors, coach, captain and the medical team to help with as well. It’s not just me saying I will play this one and not that one. We want to play in the best team but be careful of managing workloads. We will try and discuss what is best for the team.”
Relief looked to be the primary emotion from the England team after Anderson claimed his 600th wicket. At one stage in the match, he had seen four chances put down off his bowling within the space of 37 deliveries and, with rain threatening throughout, it was clear his chances of reaching the landmark this year, at least, were running out. Eventually, however, he gained a little bit of lift off the surface and persuaded Azhar Ali to push at one; Root, at slip, clung on to the sharp chance.
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“It has been a frustrating couple of days with slip catches,” Anderson said. “But I was delighted that the catch stuck. I don’t really know how to describe it. I felt a little bit emotional out there. I felt very proud and happy that I could celebrate it with my good mates. It means a huge amount.
“What I love about playing cricket is sharing these moments. Seeing Zak Crawley, a young lad, scoring 267, is just phenomenal. It makes you feel privileged to be in the ground and see something like that. Everyone feels like that.
“We have built a sort of culture in this group. We want to share in people’s successes. We want to see people doing well, performing at the top level. We are getting somewhere towards that this summer.
“To be honest, I’m just delighted I have managed to play for as long as I have and enjoy some success playing a sport I love. I have worked really hard with my skills over the years and I am fortunate enough that I get to do it at the top level playing for my country.
“Looking back to that first Test, I never thought I would get anywhere near 600 Test wickets. I just feel very fortunate and privileged that I have been able to do that for a long period of time.”