England great Anderson keen to retire on a high as West Indies seek to spoil his party

James Anderson’s 21-year test career comes full circle at Lord’s, where he made his test debut in 2003 against Zimbabwe

Published - July 10, 2024 05:50 am IST - LONDON

Ben Stokes and James Anderson of England walk back into the pavilion after a team photo at Lord’s Cricket Ground on July 09, 2024 in London, England.

Ben Stokes and James Anderson of England walk back into the pavilion after a team photo at Lord’s Cricket Ground on July 09, 2024 in London, England. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

It doesn't matter if James Anderson takes a bunch of West Indies wickets for England in the first test at Lord's from Wednesday.

The series opener will be Anderson's 188th and last test and he will transition into England's fast-bowling mentor.

He was pensioned off by England managing director Rob Key, coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes. They met him at a Manchester hotel in April to say he wasn't in their plans for the 2025-26 Ashes in Australia.

This was a month after Anderson returned from India, where he took 10 wickets at an average of 33.50. That series was lost 4-1 but on the last morning of the last test in Dharamsala, Anderson became the first seamer in history to take 700 wickets.

He spoke then of being in the best shape, liking where his game was at, and being really excited for this summer, when he will turn 42 at the end of this month.

This week, he said he was surprised at how calmly he took the news from Key, McCullum and Stokes. He understood their decision, adding, “I've sort of made peace with that.”

Anderson warmed up for his last test by showing his class last week in his first English County appearance for Lancashire. He took 7-35, the best figures in the championship.

His 21-year test career comes full circle at Lord's, where he made his test debut in 2003 against Zimbabwe. Lord's witnessed Anderson's career-best figures of 7-42 against the West Indies in 2017.

As one era ends, others could start. Surrey seamer Gus Atkinson and wicketkeeper Jamie Smith have been handed test debuts. Both played white-ball cricket for England last year; Atkinson went to the ODI World Cup. Smith replaces Jonny Bairstow, who's been dropped after 100 tests.

Spinner Jack Leach has also made way for Shoaib Bashir to make his home test debut after taking 17 wickets in India. Chris Woakes returns for his first test since he was the player of the Ashes series last summer.

“There'll be some decisions I'm sure people might not understand or might be frustrated by and that's something that I'm absolutely fine with and completely understand,” Stokes said on Tuesday.

“I don't want to say I'm stubborn, but one thing I'm very clear on is that I know that these decisions are best for the team, from my point of view. Look at where we've got to go in 18 months' time, to Australia. We want to win that urn back.”

The West Indies plays its first test since the extraordinary eight-run victory over Australia in Brisbane in January, after a 10-wicket thrashing in Adelaide.

Allrounder and former captain Jason Holder was recalled along with fellow fast bowler Jayden Seales. Opening batter Mikyle Louis will become the first man from St. Kitts and Nevis to play a test.

In the absence of the injured Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph will lead the pace attack with Seales and Shamar Joseph, whose 7-68 scuttled the Australians in Brisbane in the second innings. That earned Shamar Joseph in his second test the player of the match and short series.

Shamar Joseph called England retiree Anderson “perfect" as a test player to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper but “I want to rain on his parade.”

Anderson said he was trying hard not to think of his pending forced retirement.

“The big thing for me this week is wanting to play well, bowl well and get a win,” he said. “I'm sure the emotions during the week will change, but right now that's what I’m trying to focus on to stop myself crying.”

Lineups:

England: ⁠Zak Crawley,⁠ ⁠Ben Duckett, ⁠Ollie Pope, ⁠Joe Root, ⁠Harry Brook,⁠ ⁠Ben Stokes (captain), ⁠Jamie Smith, ⁠Chris Woakes, ⁠Gus Atkinson, ⁠Shoaib Bashir, ⁠James Anderson.

West Indies Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Mikyle Louis, Kirk McKenzie, Alick Athanaze, Kavem Hodge, Jason Holder, Joshua da Silva, Gudakesh Motie, Alzarri Joseph, Shamar Joseph, Jayden Seales.

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