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Feature

From haircuts to sledging - James Anderson's other 'highlights'

Fast bowler set to bring down curtain on 22-year England career that wasn't all wickets and magic balls

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
08-Jul-2024
James Anderson at a practice session the day before the match, England v South Africa, first Test, Edgbaston, July 23, 2003

James Anderson: hairdresser's dream  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

What is your favourite James Anderson memory? You can take your time - after all, the man has claimed just shy of 1000 wickets for England over the last 22 years. Maybe it's the raw pace and swing of youth, bamboozling Mohammad Yousuf at the 2003 World Cup. Perhaps the remodelled version blitzing New Zealand five years later. The attack leader who collected 24 wickets down under in 2010-11. The old master, with wobble seam and reverse to the fore.
Heck, there are moments with the bat that will jostle for position. One of Anderson's first significant Ashes contributions was the mock-heroic last-wicket stand alongside Monty Panesar that rescued a draw at Cardiff in 2009. Five years later, against India at Trent Bridge, he came within 19 runs of one of the most improbable Test hundreds imaginable. And that's despite the "Burnley Lara" being feted for his reverse-sweep.
But you'll have already read plenty of pieces about Anderson the player. Unsurprisingly, given his longevity, he has left his mark on the English game in a number of different ways… so let's shift our focus away from the cocked wrist, the spine-twisting followthrough, the precision engineering that has kept him going into his 40s, and delve into the rough cuts that have enriched English cricket during two decades in the spotlight.
Hair apparent
Anderson was famously shy coming through - "he said absolutely zip all to me for two-and-a-half years," said John Stanworth, Lancashire's academy coach - but with his bowling beginning to talk for him, he embraced another area of self-expression. Yes, the Burnley boy has always had a cutting-edge barnet, to go with the traditional virtues of seam and swing. And if we now think about Anderson and end product, back at the start it was just product, pure and simple.
His arrival in the England set-up was accompanied by the sort of frosted tips you were more likely to see on Top of the Pops, and before he had spent a year in international cricket he was already experimenting with a garish red 'faux hawk'. But after his eye-catching start, there followed a lengthy period when there were more highlights in Anderson's hair than on the field. He shaved it all off on the tour of Zimbabwe in 2004 and eventually returned with both a rebuilt action and less of a reliance on wet-look gel.
As he located the groove that was to bring him a record-breaking haul of wickets for England, so too did Anderson find greater consistency up top. His later years have been characterised by a tight crop coupled with a Morrissey-esque quiff, though he has continued to dabble. In 2018, he opted for an all-over platinum dye job - part silver fox, part white owl, which he put down to "maybe a midlife crisis".
Understandably, as Anderson approached the milestone of playing into his 40s and beyond, the salt-and-pepper look has become a winner. But even this year, he arrived in India sporting a golden streak in his quiff (call it "Auburn Anderson" or perhaps "Fast Bowler Sunset"). Could his Lord's send-off be accompanied by one more great 'do? Not if his curt response to the BBC's Jonathan Agnew is any indication. Asked before his farewell press conference if the red streak was going to make a last appearance, Anderson replied: "Doesn't look like it."
Media savvy
Unsurprisingly then, interest in the tyro Anderson focused more on what he looked like than anything he said. In 2008, he posed naked for Cosmopolitan alongside Stuart Broad and Alastair Cook to raise awareness of prostate cancer; he later became the first cricketer to appear on the cover of gay magazine Attitude.
But while the taciturn 'grumpy northerner' schtick has served him well, particularly when having to deal with the written press, another side of Anderson's character began to emerge, chiefly through his friendship with the much more outgoing Graeme Swann. Although very much the sidekick, Anderson demonstrated he was game for a lark on Swanny's Ashes Diary, pretending to have been caught on camera using his team-mate's shower, lip-synching with gusto to "Diamond Lights" by another classic England duo, Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle, and giving a peerless performance as Nasser Hussain in the pair's reconstruction of the 2002 toss at Brisbane.
It was from there a short hop to the BBC 5 Live show "Not Just Cricket", which brought together Anderson, Swann and Greg James; and then, a few years later, to "Tailenders", the massively successful podcast that features Anderson, James and Felix White, former guitarist with the Maccabees. And if that again plays up his dry delivery to the point of parody, it has clearly helped smooth a transition from player to pundit that is now almost complete.
Chatty man
Okay, so there's definitely one area of his life where Anderson isn't shy of a few words. On the field, in the heat of battle, Jimmy takes over from James (or at least, he used to). The spray of invective came almost as readily as the mastery of wrist position; as Cook, one of Anderson's closest friends in the England team, likes to put it, the only thing he can remember about their first meeting was that "he called me everything under the sun".
We can't ignore the sledging, which Anderson admitted he used to fall back on as a way of "getting into a battle" with opposition batters. At times it betrayed an uglier side to his game, notably when an altercation with Ravindra Jadeja at Trent Bridge in 2014 almost became a diplomatic incident.
Little is in the public domain about Anderson's way with words, though the implication is because it is largely not repeatable in polite company. One of the most famous sledges associated with him - Michael Clarke's "Get ready for a broken fuckin' arm" at the culmination of the 2013 Gabba Test - was met with stony silence, but allegedly came in response to something Anderson had said to George Bailey, fielding at short leg. England fans may prefer to remember Mitchell Johnson's: "Why are you chirping now, mate? Not getting any wickets?" during the 2010-11 series. Anderson bowled Ryan Harris next ball and turned to shush Johnson with a finger to his lips.
Anderson also famously got under Michael Hussey's skin by repeatedly calling him "Dave", pretending to confuse Mike for his older brother. Hussey credited Anderson as being "probably a bit smarter" than most of the fast bowlers he had been sledged by, which coming from an Australian we can probably take in good faith.
Cheers for the tears
One last thing: despite the gruff exterior, Anderson is a famous cry baby. It is ten years since he cracked when speaking to Michael Atherton during the post-match presentations at Headingley, having been last man out with two balls remaining in the match to give Sri Lanka victory. He had to fight back the tears live on Sky again in 2018, after taking the final wicket to set the seal on Cook's Test swansong with victory over India at The Oval.
Speaking at his final pre-match presser on Monday, Anderson hinted at the possibility of more waterworks at Lord's. "Big thing for me this week is wanting to play well, bowl well and get a win. That's what I'm trying to focus on to stop myself crying," he said with a smile. He might not be the only one who blubs.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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