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James Anderson focused on bowling to hold back tears during final Test match

James Anderson will spend his last week as an England cricketer holding back the tears after admitting he has “made peace” with the end of his record-breaking career.

Anderson is preparing to lace up his bowling boots for the final time at Lord’s, playing his 188th and final Test at the same ground that he made his debut in 2003.

The most prolific seamer in Test match history with 700 wickets, Anderson will begin his farewell appearance against the West Indies on Wednesday just a couple of weeks short of his 42nd birthday.

The decision was taken out of Anderson’s hands – with head coach Brendon McCullum, captain Ben Stokes and director of cricket Rob Key making the call to move on with a view to the 2025/26 Ashes – and he is hoping to hold it together as he bows out.

Anderson has rarely let his emotions reach the surface during 22 years of stoic service and has no plans to start now.

“My emotions are a bit all over the place at the moment,” he said.

“The big thing for me this week is wanting to play well, bowl well and get a win. I’m sure the emotions during the week will change but right now that’s what I’m trying to focus on to stop myself crying.

“I’d just love to make a small contribution and win the game. That’s the reason I’ve played cricket for so long, to experience those moments of winning series, winning games.

“I’d love to be able to sit down at the end of this Test match with a beer with all the lads having won the game.”

Anderson carefully tip-toed around the elephant in the room as he took questions in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s office space at Lord’s, making it clear he harboured no intentions of retiring under his own steam and also making no criticism of the decision.

Having spent several years flat-batting questions about the likely date of his departure, he suspected a verdict had been reached when he received an unexpected summons from Stokes, McCullum and Key in April.

James Anderson during a net session at Lord's
Anderson is the leading wicket-taker in Test history (Steven Paston/PA)

“I wouldn’t say it was a surprise. When the three big dogs invited me to a hotel in Manchester for a chat I didn’t think it was just a normal appraisal,” he said.

“I had a suspicion that that was going to be the case and I think they were surprised at how calm I was when I reacted. I was probably surprised at my reaction. I wasn’t overly emotional about it or angry about it or anything.

“I saw their point of view and appreciated them taking the time to lay it out for me, the reasoning and stuff like that. Since then I’ve come to terms with it and made peace with that decision. It’s been a strange couple of months.”

Anderson gave a timely reminder of what England would be missing as they began their next phase when he took seven for 35 for Lancashire against Nottinghamshire last week – recording the best figures of the entire County Championship season on his first appearance of the summer.

So, were England really right in their judgement that one last Ashes tour was a step too far?

Ben Stokes (right) was part of the leadership group who decided to end Anderson's glittering career
Ben Stokes (right) was part of the leadership group who decided to end Anderson’s glittering career (John Walton/PA)

“It’s 18 months away, that’s a long time but throughout my whole career I’ve never really focused on too far ahead. I’ve always tried to take it series by series and focus on those little goals,” he said.

“I probably thought before the last away Ashes that I wouldn’t make that one. Coming off the back of a seven-for, obviously I feel like I’m still bowling as well as I ever have.

“But I knew it had to end at some point, whether it’s now, a year, two years. The fact that it’s now is just something that I’ve got to deal with and accept. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

In the short term, he will transition seamlessly into a backroom role mentoring his successors in the squad but he has not yet ruled out turning out continuing his first-class career with Lancashire next season.

James Anderson in action for Lancashire
Anderson took seven wickets for Lancashire last week (Luke Adams/Lancashire Cricket via PA)

Even more immediately he is hoping to wrap up his Test career on a high, even though he does not expect to match the fairytale finish of Stuart Broad – who hit his final delivery for six then claimed a match-winning wicket with his last ball against Australia.

“It’s a lot to live up to, that,” said Anderson.

“I don’t think I’ll be doing anything like Broady did but I’d love to be able to contribute somehow this week, even if it’s just one wicket.”