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Jimmy Anderson the wallflower at his own party but late wicket brings cheer | Andy Bull
Cricket Sport

Jimmy Anderson the wallflower at his own party but late wicket brings cheer | Andy Bull

“And opening the bowling from the Pavilion End it’s …” Jimmy Anderson, of course. Same as it has been, on and off, since he took five for 73 against Zimbabwe here in his very first Test 21 years ago. He’s almost a fixture at Lord’s, like Old Father Time on the weather vane above the scorers’ box. The 21 other men from that first Test match he played are long gone now: one of them was Anderson’s last boss at the England and Wales Cricket Board; another is his latest; a third is working as one of his coaches; many of the rest make a living talking about him and his teammates. But Anderson is still out there, for this last week at least.

Those old teammates of his will tell you he was a sullen kid who hardly spoke to them all week. He didn’t seem so very different now, a little slower, for sure, and with a few more wrinkles too, but still pretty surly with it. Anderson only goes at two-and-some runs an over but he still gives more four balls than he does smiles.

They were a little late starting, and Anderson didn’t seem to enjoy the wait. The pre-match rigmarole went on longer than he wanted. Both teams were held at the doorway from the Long Room while they played a video tribute to him on the big screens at either side of the ground. Anderson leant against the doorframe, leg cocked, arms crossed, and looked down at the ground while everyone else watched, a wallflower at his own party. Left to himself, you guess Anderson would have preferred to slip out of Test cricket without letting anyone know he was going.

Not least because if England had kept control of the story they might have been able to make it look like his decision instead of one they made for him. “Dear Jimmy …” went the video tribute, which made it sound like one of those letters soldiers get from their girlfriends back home. “I’m sorry to tell you I’ve met someone else.” He’s 6ft 2in tall, 26, he bowls 90mph.

After the anthems, Anderson watched his family ring the pavilion bell to signal the start of play for the day, passed his cap and sweater to the umpire, Rod Tucker, ran his hands through his fringe, rehearsed his opening delivery, and finally started in on his run.

The day was made for it, God‑given for swing bowling. The floodlights were on, the sky was thick with heavy grey clouds, and a stiff wind was blowing from the south.

Anderson knew one of the two batsmen as well as any other he has bowled to: this was the 13th Test he has played against Kraigg Brathwaite, and Brathwaite, always slow and steady he goes, set about the innings with the measured pace of a man setting out on a mountain expedition. At the other end, though, was Mikyle Louis, making his debut. Louis was so young and sure of himself that when Anderson bowled him a fuller one up by his off stump, he didn’t think but launched it for four through long-off. It was just about the last ball Anderson let anyone drive all morning. Up in the Sky box, his old mate Stuart Broad was imploring him to pitch it up.

Jimmy Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of Jayden Seales.View image in fullscreen

But Anderson wouldn’t. So everyone waited, and waited, and after a while it felt like the wait had gone on so long that the champagne was starting to turn flat. We have an idea of how our goodbyes ought to be, but in reality these moments seldom go how we hope. Anderson’s first over went for nine, his second and third were maidens, there were a handful of singles off his fourth and fifth, but there wasn’t a wicket anywhere among them. Eventually Ben Stokes brought Gus Atkinson on to replace him, and Brathwaite immediately chopped a sloppy cut shot into his wicket. Well, there’s one, Gus, just another 699 to go.

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Numbers two, three, four, five, six and seven actually followed pretty swiftly, some of them to superb catches, others to sorry shots. Test wickets have rarely seemed so easy to come by.

Midway through the afternoon Atkinson had seven for 36, and people were checking the lists of the best Test figures on debut. Anderson, meanwhile, was still waiting for his first. He had said before the game that all he wanted to do in his final Test was make a contribution, and here he was, the only man in the attack without a wicket. So Stokes brought him back on to bowl at the last man, Jayden Seales.

And then, at last, there it was. He got it with a beautiful inswinger that beat the inside edge of Seales’s bat and hit him flush in front of leg stump. Seales called for a review, just because it is the thing to do, and everyone turned to watch the replay on the big screen. It was a beautiful ball, one we’ve seen him deliver dozens of times before, but if you were looking in the right direction, you’ll have seen something entirely new, too, even after all these years. Down in the middle of the field, Anderson was wearing a brilliant grin. You’ve never seen him so happy to trap a rabbit.

Source: theguardian.com