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Time is right to go but James Anderson will hate the ‘summer of Jimmy’

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Published Time: 11.05.2024 - 09:40:16 Modified Time: 11.05.2024 - 09:40:16

Record-breaking seamer is set to bring the curtain down on his England Test career after talks with head coach Brendon McCullum Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas James Anderson would hate all the faff of a summer of farewells and it would not help England build towards the next Ashes series either for the attack to use him as a crutch again

Record-breaking seamer is set to bring the curtain down on his England Test career after talks with head coach Brendon McCullum

: Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas

James Anderson would hate all the faff of a summer of farewells and it would not help England build towards the next Ashes series either for the attack to use him as a crutch again.

‌It is the right time for Anderson to retire at 41 (he will be 42 in July) and with 700 Test wickets, but the next question is whether this will be a long goodbye or a quick nod of the head then exit stage left?

‌Anderson is an introvert who recoils from being the centre of attention. He marked that 700th Test wicket in Dharamsala with a relieved wave to the crowd and no interviews. When Richard Thompson, the England and Wales Cricket board chairman, presented him with a painting to commemorate the moment the following day, Anderson – pint pot in hand – wore a look as if he had just been asked to bowl 10 overs in 45C heat with an old ball on a flat pitch in Rajkot.

: Getty Images/Gareth Copley

‌So the presumption he will bow out at Old Trafford is probably misplaced and poses an awkward cricketing issue too. Manchester hosts the fourth Test of the summer, the first of the series of three against Sri Lanka. Picking that as Anderson’s last game would mean dragging him around for the West Indies series that precedes it and selecting him ahead of younger bowlers earmarked for the future. Holding him back for Old Trafford would look like a sentimental pick.

‌While telling Telegraph Sport in April that he wanted to unearth pace bowlers for Ben Stokes, Rob Key also insisted England need “skill as well” and Anderson could help “us get there quicker by being around”, which suggests he has a role this summer.

‌But what better way to go than at Lord’s, the venue for the first Test of the summer against the West Indies in July on a ground where he played his first Test 21 years ago, adding some neat symmetry. Both sides could then move on; England look to Australia and use the remaining five Tests to pick new players and try different combinations with the new ball, and Anderson to fully commit to his burgeoning media career.

‌His skill at utilising the Lord’s slope from both ends has brought him 119 wickets, only Muttiah Muralthan has taken more at a single ground, and while his bowling average is slightly better at Old Trafford, he has never taken a five wicket haul there. His great England spells have happened elsewhere.

‌It requires a ruthless streak to pack Anderson off after one game. England are loyal and Stokes has only respect for Anderson. Even this decision was made with some reluctance. The allure of going out in front of his home crowd will understandably be hard for Anderson to resist and for the ECB too, who will want to mark the occasion. 

A sun-dappled Oval in September is the usual English endpoint but Anderson has never enjoyed much success there. “Be where your feet are,” is one of McCullum’s phrases, in other words win the game in front of you, but his legacy as coach will be determined by the next Ashes result and he only has 18 Tests left to play with before that series. No, the farewell either has to be Manchester or Lord’s.

: Getty Images/Gareth Copley

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