Mark Keohane, writing for IOL Sport
England’s Stuart Broad and James Anderson are ranked second and third in the Test rankings for bowlers.
Broad turns 35 this year and Anderson will be 39 before Christmas.
Neither has any plans of retirement, and rightly so.
The duo has combined for 1128 Test wickets, with Anderson’s 611 wickets the fourth most in the history of Test cricket. Broad has 517 wickets and both have been lethal in Test cricket post turning 30 years-old.
England’s retired South African-born top order batsman Kevin Pietersen a year ago questioned whether the duo, as a combination, could still be effective in Test cricket. He challenged the England selectors to make a choice.
Well, they have made a choice of sorts, but it wasn’t in keeping with KP’s thinking.
The ‘either/or’ when it comes to Broad and Anderson has been about management – and not performance – of both players and the England selectors belief that both have longevity in the longest form of the game.
The key to England’s fast-bowling success in the two-Test series win in Sri Lanka and in this past week’s fabulous first-Test win against India in Chennai has been the rotation of Broad and Anderson in the starting XI.
Broad starred in the first Test win against Sri Lanka and was rested for the second Test, in which Anderson proved the star performer with six first-innings wickets.
In Chennai, Anderson started and produced the most memorable of overs to inspire India’s second innings batting capitulation.
Anderson, despite his sensational spell in the second innings, has been rested for the second Test.
Enter Mr Broad.
The two, since January 2020 have played seven and eight Tests respectively, but have started as a combination in just four of those Tests. Broad has 33 wickets in seven Tests and Anderson 35 wickets in eight Tests.
The duo has earned the right to be described as England’s greatest fast-bowling combination, but individually they both rank as among the finest to take the new ball in Test cricket.
Both are also proof that life in Test cricket can begin at 30.
Anderson, in particular, has defied every criticism and every argument that international cricket is a younger man’s game, especially when it comes to taking the new ball.
He just is getting better with each year.
Anderson, who hasn’t bowled a finer over than the one witnessed in Chennai, has taken the most Test wickets by a fast bowler after turning 30. Anderson’s dismissal of Ajinkya Rahane took him to 342 wickets in the past eight years, which is one better than West Indies icon Courtney Walsh.
But it was Anderson 343rd wicket that made the most telling statement because he clean-bowled Indian captain Virat Kohli with an absolute beauty.
Anderson’s 343 Test wickets since passing 30 years of age, have come at an average of 23.45. In the 87 Tests he has played, he has taken five wickets in an innings 18 times. In his 71 Test, before turning 30, he took 268 wickets at an average of 30.37 and five wickets in an innings 12 times.
Broad’s Test returns also speak to the age of 30.
If no fast bowler has taken more wickets than Anderson’s 343 after turning 30, then no bowler in Test cricket has taken more wickets than Broad’s 238 before the age of 30.
Broad, since turning 30, has added another 279 Test wickets.
He gets the chance to edge closer to Anderson’s 343 in the second Test against India, but don’t be too surprised that if in one of the final two Tests against India, maybe even in both, England’s selectors decide they no longer need to make a choice of either/or when they have both.