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‘I’m so proud he’s a Lancastrian’: diehard fans pay tribute to Jimmy Anderson
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‘I’m so proud he’s a Lancastrian’: diehard fans pay tribute to Jimmy Anderson

A sharpened pencil of a man in a No 9 shirt took the new ball from Southport’s Harrod Drive End immediately after Lancashire’s captain, Keaton Jennings, declared on Tuesday morning. After two days of waiting – and Monday’s play completely washed out – the spectators wrung themselves dry and sat up tall in their fold-up chairs around the boundary.

They didn’t have to wait long. Jimmy Anderson’s 19th ball of the English summer – in his first spell since the Dharamsala Test, his first spell for Lancashire since May 2023 and his first spell since he was ushered stage left by the England management in May – angled into Haseeb Hameed’s bat and bounced back on to the stumps. And that was only the beginning – in an opening spell of 10-2-19-6, he dismantled Nottinghamshire, a hush descending on the crowd each time he paused at the top of his run-up, before they exploded when he pocketed a wicket, and another, and another.

His final figures of seven for 35 were the best in the Championship all year, and Anderson’s best for Lancashire since he unpicked Kent with seven for 19 after they chose to bat under cloudy skies at Old Trafford in 2021.

It was rich reward for Lancashire fans who, though bursting with pride at Anderson’s exploits for England over the years, often wished that their favourite son had turned out more in his faded red rose cap. Birkdale and Southport CC sits in a well-to-do area of beautiful houses, where a Conservative candidate was spotted door-knocking on Monday morning in his giant blue rosette, but the spectators were a different kind from those who will travel to Lord’s for Anderson’s international farewell. Some missed the start time because they wanted to save £5 by travelling off peak from Manchester, others were pensioners, at last able to make the most of their Lancashire membership, tucking into the giant scotch eggs and sausage rolls for sale in the warm pavilion, or a pint from the beer tent.

Joan Beaumont, perched on her chair wearing an anorak and immaculate red nail varnish, was sheltering under a huge umbrella during one of the various rain breaks. “I’ve sat here for four days because my son as a treat bought me all four tickets so that I could come and pay homage to Jimmy Anderson. And I was fortunate enough to see him bowl six batters out for 19 runs. That was absolutely amazing.

“Over the years Jimmy Anderson has brought me and my family so much joy. He is absolutely brilliant and I’m so proud that he is a Lancastrian. I’m so pleased that I’m here, I’m going to stick it out till the very end.”

Jimmy Anderson walks off at Southport with his Lancashire teammatesView image in fullscreen

Her friend Katie Bishop got into cricket only four years ago. “My friend and my husband came on Monday and sat here all day in the rain, but we did manage to get to meet Jimmy. We said ‘Hello Jimmy, you’re amazing’, and he said ‘Oh’ – so we had a true Jimmy experience. I like to think we got him so riled he took those wickets.”

A little further round the ground, on the bank by the scoreboard, sat Jane Chmielowski, a blanket folded over her knee, alongside her husband, Stefan. “We’re local people, we come every year to see Lancashire at Southport. It was a real joy, Jimmy was a class apart, you can see why he’s got so many Test wickets. I’ve been a Lancashire supporter since the 1970s, Jack Simmons – that era. He’s probably the best we’ve had.”

Lewis and Tom were both over from Australia, playing for Ormskirk CC, nine miles inland. “He’s probably the best swing bowler to ever do it,” they conceded, while Philip Derbyshire, eating a strawberry ice-cream during one of the brief periods that the sun agreed to come out, said: “I reckon he’s the greatest, he just seems to have got better and better with age, he has just perfected it over the years, kept himself so fit.”

Old enemy and now teammate Nathan Lyon, sent out on press duties after Anderson’s heroics, mischievously expressed surprise that the selectors had closed the door on Anderson’s Test career. He wasn’t alone. Brian Warbrick had travelled from Irmston. “It is a shame he hasn’t played for Lancashire more, and it would be nice to see him play one more season. If you look at his record for England, he’s one of the greatest of the modern era. It is something of a surprise that the selectors have written his swan song. I know he’s got Lord’s next week but that’s secondary for me.”

The final farewell, if that’s what it is, came when the players shook hands on a draw, just before five o’clock. The loyal few, who had sat there to the end, warmly applauded Anderson off, cap doffed, into the pavilion at last.

Source: theguardian.com