James Anderson has now bowled 37,847 deliveries in Test cricket. In Multan on Sunday, he bowled one of his best.
Mohammad Rizwan was utterly dumbfounded as England’s record Test wicket-taker of all time claimed his 674th scalp in the format with a spellbinding ball that angled into the Pakistan batter before nipping away late to strike the top of off stump.
“Unplayable” was how the delivery was described by Anderson’s long-time new-ball partner Stuart Broad in the Sky Sports Cricket studio and even Rizwan laughed about it during a post-play interview with Michael Atherton as he reflected on the evergreen England seamer’s “masterclass”.
“I don’t know how you lay bat on that,” Broad said of Anderson’s gorgeous delivery. “It was Jimmy at his absolute best. It was incredible bowling, one of the best balls he will bowl.”
Rizwan told Atherton at stumps: “It was a masterclass, I love him. I had no answer to his question.”
Few have had answers to Anderson over the years, with the one-time tearaway seamer turning himself into arguably the most-skilled pace bowler to play the game. On pitches all over the world, Anderson is a menace, with his average in Asia now 26.66 in 28 Tests.
The 40-year-old’s returns on Sunday were 1-8 from six overs after he was the fifth bowler called into action by captain Ben Stokes.
Ollie Robinson and Jack Leach were handed the new ball and both Joe Root and Mark Wood were utilised before Anderson as Stokes waited for the ball to start reversing. Anderson came on for the 16th over – the first after lunch – and five balls into it, Rizwan fell.
Unbelievable! At his age on a pitch that had done nothing for the seamers throughout the Test, to suddenly bowl that delivery to a quality player playing well, albeit after a break, was a remarkable delivery.
Broad said: “Earlier in his career, Jimmy would have bowled with the new ball and maybe missed the time when it starts to reverse but coming on first, second, fourth change or whatever, he can come on when the ball starts to move.
“Jimmy gets more of a consistent run in the side in the subcontinent now because of the skills he has got. He hasn’t got loads of wickets on this tour with cutters – it’s been the reverse swing that has done the damage – but he has worked really hard on those cutters.
“He is so consistent in the length he hits. He doesn’t go too full, it is always that length the batter can’t really drive and his economy rate all over the world, but particularly in Asia, is incredible.
“He doesn’t give any freebies. He can bowl seven or eight overs and only pick up one wicket but he has only gone for six or seven runs. That creates pressure.”
Former England seamer Steven Finn added of Anderson, who bowled 46 overs during last week’s first Test in Rawalpindi: “His pace has been maintained and if anything he has got quicker in the last couple of years which is just unfathomable at his age.
“He has such a smooth, repeatable action that if you were telling any kid how you want them to bowl when they are younger, you’d want something like Jimmy. He has that competitive bit between his teeth all of the time. He wants that fight, he wants to do all the hard work.”
There will be a bit more hard work needed on the fourth day in Multan if England are to wrap up a series victory with a game to spare.
Watch England and Pakistan push for victory live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4.40am on Monday. England need six wickets while Pakistan require a further 157 runs.
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