James Anderson surpassed Sir Ian Botham as the top wicket-taker in England’s Test history, only for West Indies to spoil his party by clinging on for a draw in the series opener in Antigua.
Anderson marked his 100th cap in grand fashion, removing Marlon Samuels to level Botham’s mark of 383 and then becoming a record-breaker in his own right when Denesh Ramdin edged to slip in the evening session.
Anderson celebrated English cricket’s new magic number of 384 in ecstatic fashion, sprinting up the pitch with arms outstretched before leaping in joy as his team-mates swarmed.
As well as his personal milestone Anderson had forced the door ajar for his side, who needed three wickets to win the game in 18.4 overs.
But the hosts closed on 350 for seven, the impressive Jason Holder scoring a vital 103 not out, with number nine Kemar Roach hanging in as the overs evaporated.
England’s final chance came and went six overs from stumps when James Tredwell just failed to gather a return catch that had looped off the leg of Gary Ballance at silly point.
The result means England have still not won an away Test since Kolkata in December 2012 and go to the second Test in Grenada at 0-0.
But once that disappointment passes, this will go down as Anderson’s hour. Since his arrival on the Test stage as a punk-haired 20-year-old, he has experienced the highs and lows of international sport and come through it as a master of his art.
Only 13 players have ever taken more Test scalps than him and it was fitting that both his wickets came from a stand named after one of them – Sir Curtly Ambrose.
Anderson was still at primary school when Botham set the record at 383, but now stands on top of the pile and ready to set a new mark for his successors to follow.
The ball that took him level owed as much to Samuels’ fuzzy thinking as Anderson’s guile, but the one that took him over the line was a peach. Too close to leave, full enough to beg a shot and shading away off the pitch. There was still work to do when it came high off the edge of Ramdin’s bat but Alastair Cook was up to it, tumbling to his left and smothering the ball with both hands. Anderson, not always given to outpourings of emotion, was electric as he dashed up the field and pumped his arms.
Botham paid tribute to Anderson after seeing the paceman break his record. “Great moment for Jimmy and his family..... Congratulations you deserve it .... Awesome !!” Botham said on Twitter.
Botham feels that Anderson is the “complete bowler”.
“He has been a joy to watch for more than 12 years in an England shirt and I’m absolutely delighted for him that he has finally overtaken me to be No 1 on the Test wicket-takers list out on his own,” Botham added in his newspaper column.
“Because he has been out on his own for years as the leader of England’s attack and the finest swing bowler of his generation.
“He hasn’t done it the easy way, he has had to work hard for his rewards and he has had to improve along the way to become the complete bowler he is today. You don’t take as many wickets as he has by being a one-trick pony who can only succeed in swinging or helpful conditions.” And Botham feels that Anderson can reach another milestone.
“It has been a privilege to watch him up close all these years and commentate on a career that I believe still has a few more miles in the tank yet,” he said. “I expect him to go past 400 now and set a record for the ages. And I’m glad I was here in Antigua to watch him do it. I’ve got a rather large gift waiting for him to open back at home, but in the meantime I’ll be sharing a glass with him at some point and having a chat about his fantastic achievement.”