Ageless James Anderson is England’s very own Ryan Giggs as bowler shows no signs of slowing down

Age is merely just a number for James Anderson as the England man seems to be just going from strength to strength, writes Chris Bailey.

Chris Bailey
by Chris Bailey
8th August 2017

article:8th August 2017

Anderson now has 487 Test wickets.
Anderson now has 487 Test wickets.

It takes just 10 minutes to journey from one Old Trafford to the other but there is very little to suggest you are ambling between two cherished theatres of sport.

Manchester is hardly a city for vanity projects, though if it was, a Hollywood boulevard of sorts could pave the way from one ground to the other.

Wasim Akram, Bobby Charlton, Clive Lloyd, Cristiano Ronaldo. Instead there are two unassuming signposts, Brian Statham Way and Sir Matt Busby Way, to remind you of the tales that can be told in an otherwise modest, working-class area.

One such yarn is still being spun as Lancashire’s James Anderson, from the newly christened James Anderson End, produced a first-innings performance that a 35-year-old James Anderson has no right to produce.

Physically there is very little difference between the Anderson of today and the Anderson of seven or eight years ago, and you’ll find even less variation in his line and length, ball after ball.

Some may swing, others may do nothing at all, but you may as well wait for the Burnley Express to retire before spotting a bad ball.

And what of retirement? Every player north of 30 is faced with the question but all the while Anderson’s bowling average has been heading south.

Defying age, however, is not altogether uncommon in those parts. Ryan Giggs would be one of the first stars laid down on that theoretical Walk of Fame and as the years progressed with Manchester United, he became famed for his longevity as much as his left foot.

What a special week @lancsccc. A great series win. Crowd were superb all 4 days 🌹🌹🌹

A post shared by James Anderson (@jimmya9) on

The similarities really are uncanny. A younger Anderson had to remodel his action after a spate of back injuries and for Giggs it was his hamstrings, which saw him turn to yoga and limit his top speed.

Then there is the obsessive nature. Anderson once explained to Sky Sports that, with a fractional late movement of his wrist, he could control which the way the ball would swing.

There is also a story that a right-handed Giggs exclusively used his left hand for a month to rewire his brain and aid his crossing. He played darts, table-tennis and more before he could hit a cross into a gym ball, thrown up into the air, nine times out of 10.

Giggs retired when he was 40 and while fast bowling places greater demands on the body, Anderson can hope to reach the next decade in England whites.

This winter’s Ashes may seem the obvious stop-off point for Anderson but an Australian great in Glenn McGrath did not possess the same box of fast bowling tricks – and roared on until two months shy of his 37th birthday.

McGrath, who was all about vicious pace and bounce, finished his last-ever Test series with a heap of wickets in a 5-0 thrashing over England.

If Anderson’s fitness holds, his subtleties could – whisper it quietly – see him last until 40. It may just be the beginning of the James Anderson End.