Most people don’t get an end named after them at a sports ground. Those that do usually have to wait until they’ve finished playing. Poor Fred Trueman was long dead before Headingley belatedly got round to honouring him with an enclosure. But most people aren’t Jimmy Anderson.
It was from his very own James Anderson End that he took his 1,000th first-class wicket on Monday afternoon. And his 996th, 997th, 998th, 999th, 1,001st and 1,002nd wickets in an exhibition spell of swing and seam bowling: deadly crotchet after deadly crotchet. Not a note wasted. Seven Kent wickets in 47 deliveries. His best first-class figures. Bang-a-bang-bang.
All he’d been thinking about when he pulled off his jumper was grooving his action and putting into practice the work he’d been doing in the nets. He was looking for rhythm. He found it.
Old Trafford has seen many golden moments over the years, from Jim Laker’s 19 wickets to Shane Warne’s ball of the century, a one-run victory over Yorkshire in the T20 Blast to Jordan Clark’s Roses hat-trick. Sometimes the place has been rocking, lungs bursting into Stretford and beyond. Not on Monday.
It was a damp afternoon, with four sessions of the match washed out by the incessant rain. Covid protocols had roped off more than half the seats. That anyone had turned up at all after the morning’s deluge was a miracle; that the pitch was fit to play on at 2pm a testament to Old Trafford’s drainage and the groundsmen emerging from their little hut to roll and squeeze miracles.
But some did come, huddling under the gargantuan Point at the James Anderson End. When Kent made the bold decision to bat to under brooding skies and Heino Kuhn became wicket No 1,000 in a moment of inevitable motion, it was all the more tender for the faithful being rewarded,
As Anderson led off his teammates after Kent were dismissed for 74 in little more than two hours, seven for 19 in his pocket, he turned just before he reached the rope and raised the match ball to those fans, many of whom will have been watching and willing him on from the very beginning of his career.
At the other end of the ground, three journalists were in the huge press box – a measure of how the Championship has slipped down lists of priority since Anderson’s debut in 2002. Ken Grime, in charge of Lancashire’s media output, has been watching at Old Trafford since Brian Statham’s last match here in 1968. Can he remember a better spell of fast bowling? “I’m struggling,” he says. “It’s up there with the best that I’ve seen.
“Wasim Akram springs to mind, I remember he took eight at Southport and we had to stop them taking money off people at the gate because wickets were falling so quickly, Daffy [Phil DeFreitas] could have a golden arm and Glenn Chapple at Chelmsford when we bowled Essex out for 20 and he got five wickets and a run-out. But this was special.”
After the game, Anderson floated down the pavilion steps. He looked genuinely delighted. “It feels great – I have been getting ribbed from the lads upstairs because I genuinely didn’t know how many wickets I’d taken. At first, I thought they were going a bit over the top for a five-for but to see the reaction from the lads was really special and then to get to chew the fat with them after the day was really nice.
“It feels special to get the milestone here where I took my first wicket – it still sounds ridiculous to think I’ve taken 1,000 wickets. I’ll look back on this in years to come and think more about it but right now spending time with the lads and the reaction from the crowd is special.
“Getting Ian Ward out here was something I’ll never forget – it was a lifelong dream to play for Lancashire. I’m away a lot with England and don’t get to play much for Lancashire so it makes it that much more special to do it here and with a performance that helps the team. It’s a day I’ll never forget.
“I felt really good from ball one. Sometimes you can just feel that way from the moment the ball comes and you know it’s going to be a good day. The first ball went exactly where I wanted it to go. It swung, the conditions were favourable, it carried, which means you don’t have to force and if you find the right length the nicks will carry. From then on I was just trying to challenge the defence of the batters as much as possible.”
It is not ridiculous to have reached 1,000 first-class wickets. Wilfred Rhodes took a mind-blowing 4,204 in his 32-year career, Trueman 2,304. But the feat has been becoming more and more unusual as less and less first-class cricket is played and international bowlers are increasingly preserved in aspic. The last England player to reach 1,000 first-class wickets was Robert Croft, in 2007, while the last seamer was Andy Caddick, in 2005.
Could Anderson be final man to reach the summit? The bowling equivalent of Mark Ramprakash and his 100 hundreds? The fantastical, the unplayable, Jimmy Anderson.