Cape Town - Amidst some understandable
fanfare in his home country, strike bowler James Anderson recently became the
first Englishman to advance to 400 Test wickets.
He ended the second and final home Test
against New Zealand (a series shared 1-1) with 403 scalps, having reached the
400 landmark in that Headingley tussle - his 104th appearance for
It also made him the 10th
fastest bowler of all time to reach 400 in match terms, only marginally behind
the lone South African thus far, the retired Shaun Pollock (103 games to the
landmark) in ninth.
But next month a certain Dale Steyn looks
well set to bust into the “400 club” as well, and probably do so in spectacular
second position in stealth terms behind Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan
(72 Tests); he would also become just the 13th cricketer in history
to reach the figure regardless of time taken to achieve it.
Steyn requires four wickets to reach 400
from his current 396 secured in 78 Tests, and if he gets that tally in his 79th
- the first of two clashes with Bangladesh in Chittagong, from July 21-25 - will
force New Zealand’s Sir Richard Hadlee down to third as he needed 80 Tests to
The portents seem pretty good for the Phalaborwa
Express, as the last and only previous time he played a Test there, in 2008, he
earned match figures of seven for 101 in a huge Proteas win and is generally
very comfortable bowling in the unfavourable conditions of the Subcontinent.
At the same time, he would only
re-emphasise the statistical dominance he commands over Anderson, whose Test
career has roughly paralleled his as they are only a year or so apart in age -
Steyn will turn 32 later this month and his English rival 33 in July.
The issue has attracted great prominence
over the last couple of years, given that current England captain Alastair Cook
is just one of several prominent people from those shores to have contended
that Anderson is at least the equal of Steyn.
Former England bowling coach David Saker in
2013 even described Anderson as “the most skilful (Test) bowler in the world”.
There is very little statistical
ammunition, however, to back up Saker’s belief, not least the most trusted and
powerful yardstick of all - a bowler’s average.
Here Steyn continues to hold the aces in a
major way, his career Test average standing at 22.55 whilst Anderson’s has
dipped a tad to 29.42 after the New Zealand mini-series in which he averaged a
fairly costly 43.
Anderson does continue to hold a slight
edge for economy, as his rate stands at 3.05, compared with Steyn’s 3.25.
But in reaching the previous major Test
wickets landmark - 300 - Steyn was joint third-quickest of all time there,
whereas Anderson came in joint-22nd.
As for the 200 milestone, the South African
was fourth swiftest to it, and Anderson joint-48th.
In Chittagong next month, Steyn ought to deliver
another heavy statistical punch at the expense of “Jimmy” Anderson, reaching
400 wickets in a whole 25 Tests fewer than it took the man from Burnley.
It would almost seem a good reason to call
off the bout, wouldn’t it?
Both are magnificent bowlers and
competitors. Only Steyn simply continues to deliver better numbers ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing