England great James Anderson given a fitting Lord’s farewell but it has come too soon

Anderson played his 188th and final Test match at Lord’s against the West Indies  (Getty Images)
Anderson played his 188th and final Test match at Lord’s against the West Indies (Getty Images)

There will never be another James Anderson. Such statements are made all the time when a great from the game retires, but in this case, it will never be more true.

Anderson made his England debut in 2002, a year before the first domestic T20 matches and there were no concerns surrounding the future of Test cricket. It is inconceivable that another fast bowler will be able to play 188 matches in the game’s longest format, never mind taking 704 wickets.

And now it’s all over, with four more wickets to savour in a thumping victory over the West Indies. Anderson stands head and shoulders above the other seam bowlers. Stuart Broad is the closest with 604 wickets, and only two spinners, Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and Shane Warne (708), have more.

England made the decision to move on from Anderson, 41, before the start of the Test summer, but at least sanctioned one final match, a 188th Test cap, and a deserved farewell at the home of cricket.

“Test cricket is literally the reason I am the person that I am,” Anderson said, speaking at Lord’s. “It has taught me so many lessons through the years, built my resilience to a lot of things.

“I think the fulfilment you get from putting in a shift in a day’s cricket is different to anything else you can do in the game. I know you can earn a lot of money from bowling four overs [in T20 cricket] but for me personally, I would never get the same sort of joy or fulfilment from taking wickets that are caught on the boundary as from trying to really give a batter a working-over and figure someone out.

“Your skills over three, four, five overs to try and get the better of them – I think there is no better feeling than that in the game. I just hope there are enough kids and young professionals out there who still want that to be the case, rather than going chasing the dollar.”

Anderson made his Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord’s in 2003 (Getty Images)
Anderson made his Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord’s in 2003 (Getty Images)

For British sport it is a time of farewells, Andy Murray made a final emotional bow alongside brother Jamie at Wimbledon, Mark Cavendish just broke the all-time stage wins record in his last Tour de France and the likes of Max Whitlock, Tom Daley and Jade Jones will all wave goodbye to the Olympics in Paris later this month. Anderson has had no less impact on his sport than any of those other figures.

The decision for Anderson to retire was not a question of current ability or injury but head coach Brendon McCullum and managing director of men’s cricket Rob Key believing he would not be available for the Ashes in Australia in 18 months’ time.

The retirement conversation has surrounded Anderson for years, at least as far back as the 2019 Ashes in England, when he was 36. But this decision was made for him, England made the call to move on, and the Burnley-born seamer has been forced to accept it.

“It’s hard to say [whether I disagree with the decision],” Anderson said, adding: “I’ll be 43 by then.

“For me, I’ve always thought that age is just a number; I don’t feel 41. I still feel as fit as I ever have, like I’m bowling as well as I ever have.

“My record has got much better since turning 35. I still think I could do a job but at the same time I understand that it has to end at some point, and I completely accept – completely understand – their reasoning behind it.

“It’s important that we go to that Ashes series with guys who have got experience. With Broady [Stuart Broad] finishing last year and myself now, we need as much Test cricket into those guys as possible.”

Anderson is ready for a final Test match at Lord’s (Getty Images)
Anderson is ready for a final Test match at Lord’s (Getty Images)

Anderson has now completed his 188th and final Test appearance at the home of cricket, the same venue at which he made his bow in the format against Zimbabwe, 21 years ago. His farewell overshadowed the occasion and, certainly, the challenge posed by the West Indies, with Gus Atkinson earning player of the match after 12 wickets.

Broad left the game in fairytale fashion last summer, hitting his final-ever ball for six, and taking the final wicket of the Ashes, to win England the game and see the series end in a draw. Anderson has never been one to thrive in the limelight in the same way as his longstanding bowling partner, but it is a deserved farewell. If only he could have held on to the ball when Gudakesh Motie hit it back to him with the match just one wicket away from finishing.

It is fitting that Anderson gets a final farewell, for his services to England Test cricket over the last two decades-plus. But his seven wickets in Lancashire’s most recent game, alongside four more over the last three days, and the lack of experience in the rest of the seam attack, could lead to questions down the line on why he was not given more.