Jimmy Anderson believes he is the last of his kind – a 40-year-old seamer heading into a Test at Lord’s – as the next generation of quicks around the world become increasingly drawn to the high-pay, low-workload lifestyle of Twenty20 cricket.
Speaking before the three-match series between England’s rejuvenated side and the current leaders in the World Test Championship, one that starts ton Wednesday, Anderson tipped only Stuart Broad, four years his junior, to go on as long as he has.
“Maybe Broady,” Anderson said, when asked if he could see another 40-year-old seamer playing Test cricket. “But definitely not after that, because no one will be stupid enough. Everything that has gone on in the world with franchise cricket, the Hundred, the short forms of the game, I can’t see anyone wanting to play Test cricket for this long.”
Anderson, who turned 40 on 30 July, agreed that Trent Boult’s recent uncoupling from his New Zealand central contract to focus on time at home and T20 leagues represents a “landmark” moment for the sport “because he is such a high-profile international player and I can definitely see it happening more and more, particularly with bowlers”.
Asked if this expected trend made him sad, Anderson said: “It does because Test cricket will probably bear the brunt of it. The easiest thing to do for bowlers is bowl four overs or 20 balls. It takes nothing out of you. And if you’re getting paid just as well it probably makes sense – it will tempt more people than not.”
Even in the era of central contracts and improved sports science – plus his own Test specialism since 2015 – Anderson is an outlier. Were he to claim a wicket this week, he would become England’s first frontline seamer in their fifth decade to do so in Test cricket since Les Jackson against Australia in 1961 aged 40 years and 125 days.
Not that Anderson is feeling his age, with England’s record Test wicket-taker (657 victims to date) re-energised by the positivity that has swept through the dressing room since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum took over as captain and head coach, and four successive breakneck wins against New Zealand and India followed. They have done so with an evangelical zeal as Stokes and McCullum seek to spread the word of Test cricket through their hyper-aggressive approach.
“Even if we didn’t play this way, I still think Test cricket is an amazing format,” Anderson said. “I hope people see it and want to be a part of it, growing up wanting to play Test cricket. Our job and responsibility as Test cricketers is to promote the game and encourage as many people as possible to watch it and play it when they get older.”
The so-called “Bazball” approach – a term England have sought to play down – has been a topic of conversation all summer, with Mark Boucher, the South Africa head coach, even joking before his press conference on Monday that anyone using the term should have to drink a shot of tequila (a drinking game that could be called “Bouchball”, perhaps).
The former Proteas wicketkeeper’s lighthearted mood continued, saying his side’s recent defeat against England Lions in Canterbury – when the understudies racked up 672 all out at more than 5.5 runs per over – taught them “how to fetch the ball”. Boucher stressed the fixture was solely a warmup, not a form guide before the first Test.
South Africa’s record at Lord’s is particularly strong, having won four of their six Tests at the ground since readmission, but Boucher is mindful the current generation are light on experience here. To that end their squad took a tour on arrival, including a visit to the museum, with the reaction heartening for the head coach.
“This is where legends are made,” he said. “We walked into the changing room and you see all the names on the board. There’s so many stories around those performances. All the players were just staring in awe of what was around them. There’s a lot of passion and emotions are running high. In a good way.
“As a coach you don’t really have to try and get the boys all geed up for a game like this. The youngsters want to perform at this ground, hopefully create something special and become legends in the game, like a lot of the cricketers in the past.”
The teams have one final training session before the series gets under way. Other than a return for Ben Foakes, England are expected to be unchanged from July’s win over India – Ollie Robinson, fresh from five wickets for the Lions, appears closest to changing their minds – while Boucher is optimistic Kagiso Rabada will be fit after suffering an ankle problem on tour.