Bowler Anderson happy to put prospect of milestone moment at Lord's in the hands of fate

Fate has served James Anderson well so far, and he will be trusting in it again at Lord's this week as he tries to ease the pressure of expectation at the imminent prospect of his 500th Test wicket.

England's James Anderson (right) and Stuart Broad (left) during the nets session at Lord's.
England's James Anderson (right) and Stuart Broad (left) during the nets session at Lord's.

It is a unique achievement among Englishmen, and one many were anticipating at Headingley last week only for Anderson to follow his first-innings 5-76 with an uncharacteristic blank as the West Indies pulled off a shock series-levelling victory.

But Anderson will refuse to fret if his rewards still do not come in the Investec series decider which will get under way on Thursday, knowing from his 128 Tests to date that is sometimes how it works in cricket.

As for that 500 moment – which will see England’s all-time leading wicket-taker join just five other bowlers, including only two fellow seamers – he will keep doing his damnedest to put it out of his mind.

“I know it’s there, but I’m trying not to think about it,” said the 35-year-old, who is back at the scene of a 2003 Test debut against Zimbabwe in which he took five first-innings wickets and put himself on a hat-trick.

“I’m a bit of a believer in fate, so if it’s meant to be this week then it will happen – as long as we get the win I’m not too fussed.”

Anderson freely admits his reliance on the concept of destiny is a tactic to dodge the bowler’s occasional blues.

“You can use it as a crutch,” he said. “When it’s not your day you can try and brush it off because cricket is a game where you can bowl out of your skin and get no wickets, you can bowl a pile of rubbish and get ‘five-for’.

“You’ve got to think that way to keep your sanity.

“It wasn’t always the case. Before, I thought if I didn’t get wickets I hadn’t prepared the right way or I had not practised enough, or ‘what am I doing wrong?’

“I think the older you get the more you can trust your preparation and your routines – I try and do the same things two and one days out from the game, and trust what I have done.”

As for England’s travails in Leeds, Anderson is prepared to shoulder his share of the responsibility.

“I don’t think we bowled well enough,” he admitted.

“We bowled slightly better second innings. But I think we went away from what we do best – that is creating pressure.

“We searched for wickets ... we didn’t bowl to our strengths.”

Bowling coach Ottis Gibson, preparing for a poignant final Test of his second stint with England against his native team before he leaves to take charge of South Africa, still pinches himself at the privilege of helping to harness the talents of both Anderson and Stuart Broad.

His admiration for both is obvious, and he is happy to spell out the attributes which ensure 35-year-old Anderson is still a special asset for England.

“He’s very skilful. He knows what he wants to do,” said Gibson. “He knows how to make it swing the way he wants ... he can do both [in and outswing] without much of a change in his action.

“But he’s also open to challenge ... he’s still curious about the game. If you’re curious, you continue to learn.”