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Is this the end of the road for the James Anderson? Not quite

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Last Updated on 11 months by Charbel Coorey

Cricket Opinion: Is this the end of the road for the great James Anderson? | How long does England’s great bowler have left?

On Wednesday, July 5, England Cricket took to their social media accounts to announce their playing XI for the third Ashes Test in Leeds.

The hosts made three changes from the previous Test at Lord’s. Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood replaced Ollie Pope, Josh Tongue and James Anderson in the must-win game for England.

Pope, a forced change, dislocated his shoulder and is out of the series. Tongue, surprisingly, was left out after enjoying a strong start to his career.

Why it’s not the end of the road yet for James Anderson

Anderson’s exclusion was less of a surprise given England often manage his workload. But, his form over the first two Tests begs the question – is this the end of the road for the great Jimmy Anderson?

Some think it is. The pacer is now 40 years old, and will turn 41 in less than a month’s time. In the Ashes so far, he has taken just three wickets over the two games having bowled close to 80 overs. But, are those of this opinion being too judgmental and reactionary?

The statistics would say yes. There is no doubt that Anderson has been disappointing over the last two weeks, where he has averaged over 75 with the ball. He has never averaged more in a series since 2008. But, one must not forget what the 40-year old did not too long ago against New Zealand.

Earlier this year, England drew 1-1 against New Zealand in an away Test series. The recency bias may make this sound like a shocker, but it was the evergreen Anderson who took the joint-most wickets (10) for his side across the two Tests. In the series, only Neil Wagner took more wickets than him, and no bowler averaged less than his 16.80.

In December, 2022, Anderson took eight wickets in two Tests against Pakistan on flat highways. Once again, his average of 18.50 was the best for any bowler in the series.

In his last 17 Tests, he has taken 68 wickets at a scintillating average of 19.85. What makes it even more incredible is the fact that he has been around the 40-year mark all this while.

Anderson expressed his disappointment at the Edgbaston pitch

After the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston where the talisman managed to notch just one wicket in 38 overs, Anderson expressed his disappointment regarding the nature of the pitch.

“If all the pitches are like that, I’m done in the Ashes series. That pitch was like kryptonite for me. There was not much swing, no reverse swing, no seam movement, no bounce, and no pace,” wrote Anderson in his column in The Telegraph.

But, he could not produce an impactful performance in the second Test either. He again took to his column in The Telegraph to clarify that his performance not being up to the mark is not because of his age, but due to other factors. Earlier, he admitted to feeling the rustiness while bowling and accepted that he has not been at his best. Moreover, he said that it is more of a lean patch and it is partly also due to the pitches not suiting him much.

“I will be honest. You want to contribute in the big series and I cannot remember having two such quiet games in a row for at least the past 10 years. I feel like I have always contributed at some stage. But I do not think I am bowling particularly badly; I am just going through a lean patch, which you do not want to happen in an Ashes. I am saying lean patch but it is only two games out of 181.”

“I am not going to criticize the pitch again. They have not suited me so far but I have found ways of getting wickets in the past on flat pitches. At the moment I am just not finding that knack.”

“It comes with the territory at my age for people to speculate about my future. But I understand. It is a high-profile series and you get put under the spotlight a bit more and the easy target is to say he is getting on a bit. But the reason I have not taken wickets is not because of my age,” wrote Anderson.

Anderson just 12 wickets away from 700 Test scalps

What James Anderson has done over the years in simply incredible. He is a legend of the game, and is currently 12 Test wickets away from touching the 700-mark, a feat only achieved by Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne.

The 40-year old has stepped up for England for years now, and he still is doing so. Anderson has had two under-par games, which do not take away all that he has done in his other 179. He is about to turn 41, but is extremely fit and has proven his worth on numerous occasions. He is still very capable of exploiting conditions that favour him, and even perform in those that don’t.

It definitely is not the end of the road for James Anderson. With all his experience, skill and mental toughness, he will surely come back strong in the coming future.

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