It’s coming. We’ve known it had to, and don’t know when yet, and when it happens, we’ll all be rocked to our cores. One day, James Anderson is going to retire from international cricket.
Yes, it will eventually happen. Much as we’d all love the Burnley Lara to play for England well into his 50s, the injuries are beginning to seep in, the hair is threatening to grey, and the bright young star who burst onto the scene against Zimbabwe at Lord’s will soon have bowled his last dark red, curving ball at a Test batsman.
The question will then quickly be asked of England: who is the next Jimmy? He will unfortunately be the benchmark for every bowler who dons a pair of boots, and an unfair one. After all, Jimmy is a once in a lifetime bowler.
We’ve still got Broad, I hear you say. You’re right of course. Stuart Broad is a supremely talented bowler with one thing Jimmy never had: extreme height from which to deliver the ball. However, he can only bowl at one end, and like man, no bowler is an island. Every Ambrose needs his Walsh, every Caddick his Gough, every Wasim his Waqar. So too Broad, when he is without his Anderson, will need another partner. Who are the county game’s prime candidates to come in?
Mark Wood, Durham
99 First-Class wickets @ 27.2
International experience: 6 Tests, 7 ODIs, 1 T20I
He’s an unorthodox man, but he is the orthodox choice.
Thrust into an Ashes series with very little international or even first-class experience – Durham have had to manage his workload carefully due to injury issues – he has performed with an admirable maturity. He has shown that he can bowl as a holding force when the ball isn’t moving, or a genuine shock-and-awe bowler when it is. He can also reverse the ball, and is a better batsman than anyone first imagined, which is an added bonus.
He is a confirmed madman in the dressing room, and his imaginary horse makes him an all-round superb addition to the stable.
Reece Topley, Essex (Hampshire 2016)
125 First-Class wickets @ 25.8
International experience: 1 ODI, 1 T20I
It is, according to England at least, impossible not to consider at least one left-arm seamer whenever selection of a fast bowler is at hand.
There is a lot to like about Topley, even at his young age. His father Don took over 350 first-class wickets, and Reece himself has shown an ability to take wickets very cheaply with red and white ball. He made an Essex debut at just 17, taking 5-46 against Kent to well and truly announce himself on the scene.
However, a persistent back injury has stopped him spending a full season bowling, a concerning trait for a young bowler, and all his wickets have come in the Division Two of the County Championship. Next year though he will play for Hampshire (although he did sign before they saved themselves from relegation) and should he remain fit it could be a real breakthrough year for him.
Craig Overton, Somerset
102 First-Class wickets @ 25.6
International experience: England U-19 and Lions
Perhaps the most fashionable choice, Overton is a picture of a player. Tall, strong, broad-shouldered, and should he get injured, you could bring in his brother Jamie and no-one would tell the difference.
While Somerset have had a poor season, they can blame the batting, as Overton has been superlative, and won a place on England’s winter bowling camp in South Africa with 40 wickets at 17. The only blot on his copybook was a Level One offence (swearing or offensive gesture) during a game with Sussex, but should he find a way to control his rage and channel it into his bowling, he could be one of the greats.
Chris Rushworth, Durham
277 First-Class wickets @ 23
International experience: Selling satellite dishes made in India
Rushworth’s story is perhaps one of the best in country. In 2006, he was released by Durham, having made just one appearance, against Sri Lanka A in a one-day game. He returned to ‘normal’ life, working in a call centre for a while, and then found a job selling satellite dishes.
However, throughout this time, he kept playing cricket for his club Sunderland, taking plenty of wickets in the highly competitive North East Premier. He might have been the only one, but Rushworth still believed he could play first-class cricket. By 2012, he was an important member of a formidable Durham attack, and in last September, he bowled out Northants with club record figures of 15-95.
Now, Rushworth is the country’s top wicket-taker, and is a prime swing bowler. He may be 29, but he is so prolific now that he seems impossible not to pick, and possess similar skills to Anderson.