Late-flow­er­ing An­der­son eyes the 600 club be­fore re­tir­ing

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Scyld Berry CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Galle

James An­der­son, hav­ing seen his best friend Alas­tair Cook re­tire in clouds of glory at the Oval less than two months ago, could be for­given for set­ting his sights on a farewell next Septem­ber which will be even more spec­tac­u­lar.

Re­gain­ing the Ashes for Eng­land in the fifth Test by tak­ing his 600th Test wicket? As Cook bowed out against In­dia, with the se­ries al­ready won, An­der­son would go one bet­ter if this cli­max were to come to pass at Aus­tralia’s ex­pense. It would, in­deed, make the finest of all farewells.

For this to ma­te­ri­alise, how­ever, An­der­son still has to take 36 more Test wick­ets – and he is 36 years of age. Given a Dukes ball, hoop­ing past in­side and out­side edges, 20 wick­ets in the Ashes should not be a prob­lem: in the 2017 sum­mer he took 20 wick­ets in only four Tests against South Africa and 19 in only three against West Indies, then 24 in the five against In­dia last sum­mer. Which leaves 16 wick­ets to be taken in this se­ries in Sri Lanka and the three Tests against West Indies in the new year.

“Yes, I think it has,” said An­der­son when asked if he had been sur­prised by his late flow­er­ing. “It’s not the norm for bowlers to have that sort of spike to­wards the back end of their ca­reers.

“I’ve been a lit­tle bit sur­prised by it. I’ve re­ally en­joyed the last cou­ple of years. It’s been a bit up and down for the team but we seem to be mak­ing good progress at the mo­ment.

“Hav­ing seen the guys who cross over both forms of the game and the way they played in the one-day stuff [Eng­land beat Sri Lanka 3-1], that will stand them in good stead hav­ing that sort of ex­pe­ri­ence of the pitches. We have guys with the men­tal abil­ity. The thing that stood Cooky out from ev­ery­one else was that in hot con­di­tions he could bat for long, long pe­ri­ods of time. That’s what it is go­ing to take out here.”

And, as An­der­son re­al­is­ti­cally recog­nises, tak­ing wick­ets with a Kook­aburra ball in Sri Lanka on pitches made for spin­ners is a chal­lenge he has yet to over­come. He took five wick­ets in one in­nings of his only pre­vi­ous Test at Galle, back in 2012, but only 11 of his 564 wick­ets have come in Sri Lanka; and the pitch at the sta­dium be­side the Galle Fort looks even more grass­less ahead of the first Test start­ing on Tues­day, a sharp con­trast to the lush and well-mon­sooned out­field.

At least, as one of only two Eng­land play­ers to have played a Test in Sri Lanka – his open­ing part­ner Stu­art Broad the other – An­der­son (left) knows what he has to do: not only swing the new and old ball both ways but cut it with his fin­gers like a spin­ner.

His off-cut­ters, prob­ing for the stumps and lbws, were a mar­vel in the UAE in 2012 on the equally un­sym­pa­thetic sur­face of Shar­jah. “It is a huge chal­lenge for seam bowlers out here but when you have a good day here you get more sat­is­fac­tion than bowl­ing on a green seamer in Eng­land in April,” he said.

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