James Anderson looks no closer to the finish line after posting yet another career high in England’s second Test against Sri Lanka, but the paceman has been looking to sprint great Carl Lewis for running tips.
At an age where most pace bowlers are no longer putting themselves through the hard yards of Test cricket, 38-year-old Anderson is still finding ways to get better. On Saturday morning he put the finishing touches to figures of six for 40 on day two, his best ever return in Asian conditions.
That helped England dismiss their hosts for 381, a strong total but one that would have been even steeper without Anderson’s excellence, before Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow put on a 93-run stand for England’s third wicket in a total of 98 for two.
Anderson’s unmatched ability to endure on the big stage – he has played more Tests, bowled more balls and taken more wickets than any other seamer – has been fuelled by a fierce physical determination and even now he is eager to learn and evolve.
“Age is something that I don’t really take into account…I don’t wake up thinking ‘right I’m 38 and however many days’. I’m thinking I’m still someone who can do a job for England and I can still win games of cricket,” he said.
“I still love working at my game, still love doing the fitness stuff and keeping in good shape. I feel as though I can still get quicker and that I can improve on my fitness, so I am trying to find ways of doing that. I have done a lot of work in the gym and I have sort of got obsessed with watching sprinters as well.
“I am obsessed with Carl Lewis at the minute, watching him run but I don’t know if you can see a comparison with me chasing the ball to the boundary! I don’t see why I can’t keep improving just because I’m getting older. The more work you put in, generally this game will give you rewards and that’s how it felt the last couple of days.”
Anderson’s superb showing raises questions about whether or not England would be best served playing both him and Stuart Broad in the first Test against India in a fortnight’s time – having shared one place in the current series.
“I’d like to think so, but all we can do is try to keep performing and hopefully we get the nod,” he said.
“I’m sure the coach and captain have got their thoughts and the selectors will have their thoughts too.”
England will pick up on 98 for two on day three, Root following up last week’s 228 with a free-scoring 67no with Jonny Bairstow offering solid support.
Root’s dominant performance settled any sense of drama created by the third successive failure of top two Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley and he looks in good enough form for another big innings.
“I feel like he’s a real calming influence on the team at the moment, both in the dressing room as captain and out in the middle,” said Anderson.
“To have someone like him in a team, who’s obviously in good form at the moment is great. And hopefully the other guys will follow his example, stick with him and try and build some big partnerships.”