It was in New Zealand in 2008 that James Anderson and Stuart Broad formed a Test bowling partnership and it is in the same county 15 years later that they have become the format’s most prolific – in quite some style to boot.
When Broad cleaned up Black Caps opener Devon Conway under lights on Saturday night, the pair reached 1,002 Test wickets in games played together, surpassing the previous record of 1,001 held by Glenn McGrath and the late Shane Warne for Australia.
Ten overs later, thanks to Broad’s box-office, four wickets popped up in the pink-ball Test, McGrath and Warne trailing by four.
It was rather fitting that Broad himself and Anderson earned this piece of history by shredding a range of opposition. These kinds of spells have become his trademark.
Consider his 8-15 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 2015 – a game Anderson missed through injury – or his 6-17 against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2016. There have been plenty more.
When Broad hits his knees, he gets punched and the crowd jumps. When he is on a roll, cricket grounds become auditoriums and he becomes England’s gladiator. Maximum Broadyus. One half of one hell of a bowling duo.
It’s now 1,005 Test wickets – and counting – for ‘Branderson’. It’s a number Anderson, 40, and Broad, 36, couldn’t fathom when Anderson bowled New Zealand opener Matthew Bell with a pinched, in-swinging delivery to secure their first wicket as a tandem in Wellington all those years ago.
But 1.005 is. Because of the finesse and fitness, the hard work and hunger, the desire to keep going and improve, England’s king of swing (Anderson) and king of game-changing spells (Broad) are records. Not the fastest but still the smoothest. I’m getting old but I’m getting better. Fifteen years later, it’s still going strong.
Since turning 35 in July 2017, Anderson has taken 198 wickets at an average of 20.96 in 53 Tests, which is amazing. Broad’s average since being recalled to the side ahead of the 2022 home summer (we’ll get to his and Anderson’s 2022 drop in a minute) is 34 wickets in eight Tests at 25.91.
Their home run success with Dukes ball is central to their history. Anderson has 429 wickets from 101 UK Tests at an average of 23.79, while Broad’s ledger reads 370 wickets in 70 Tests at 25.89. But there were also triumphs abroad. Broad’s latest comes on Saturday night as he smashed the stumps of Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Tom Blundell in Tauranga.
Anderson averaged less than 24 in the Ashes last winter, Broad less than 27. In South Africa, Broad has 45 wickets in 12 Tests at 23.95. Anderson’s average in Asia now stands at 26.78 after December’s 3-0 sweep of Pakistan, in which he took eight wickets in two Tests at an average of 18.50.
The luxurious seam and swing that Anderson and Broad often find at home helped their numbers, but so did the development of cutters, slower balls and swinging seams for more alien conditions. Their roles have been adapted from time to time as well.
Anderson was the fifth bowler used by Ben Stokes against Pakistan in Multan in December, saved when the ball reverse swung. Broad – who missed that tour due to paternity leave – is also often the first change in friendlier settings with Anderson and Ollie Robinson sharing new-ball duties.
Former England captain Sir Alastair Cook said BT Sport: “Jimmy and Broady have redefined themselves so many times, learning how to bowl in the subcontinent. Jimmy is learning to bowl when he is not swinging. Broad is also so effective with his cutters and has improved his bowling to left-handers.
“It was a big development and the courage to keep pushing yourself. It’s very easy to play safe and say that’s what I’m doing, but these guys haven’t.
“There is no rivalry between them but an ‘if he can do it, I can do it too.’ They are similar bowlers in terms of the pace they play but very different when you face them.
“At 16, Broad was an opening batsman who bowled at a bit of average pace. He’s probably not the same natural bowler as Jimmy, but he’s a very smart bowler and makes the most of the conditions.
“Broady and Jimmy’s big strength is that they don’t lack length – that shouldn’t be taken for granted as it’s a serious skill.
“They question your technique and decision-making over and over again. Even if you make the right decisions as a batter, you get very little reward as they don’t lose length.”
Anderson and Broad’s retirement from white-ball cricket after England’s dismal 2015 World Cup campaign – Anderson hasn’t played a limited-overs international since, Broad only two in 2016 – has also helped expand their red-ball (and this week pink ball ) collaboration, giving them regular breaks in the calendar to refresh their minds and bodies.
Of course, they were given an unwelcome chance to rest their minds and bodies from red-ball cricket last March when they were controversially omitted from the West Indies tour by interim director of men’s cricket Sir Andrew Strauss and his selection committee.
Broad was left “confused and angrier every day” by the decision, while Anderson said he was “praying” his England career was not over. Had this partnership reached its end point after 14 years? “No” was the clear answer from future England captain Stokes.
Anderson and Broad is now an alliance that has reached 15 years. They’d get something crystal if they were married, but they’ll settle for another trophy, which has become the norm lately. Three test series played under Stokes, three test series won. Thanks to Broad’s match-defining last spell, he looks set to go 1-0 to New Zealand as he chases four in a row.
Foreigners call England’s exciting new style ‘Bazball’. Those in the camp just love being a part of it, none more so than Broad and Anderson. They have been energized by the aggressive approach, which for them includes prioritizing taking wickets over saving runs.
Talking to you Sky Sports in December, Anderson said, “I’ve been around for 20 years and [Stokes’] The aggressive mindset makes me think differently about the game. He wants us to have fun and enjoy the time we spend together. It was a breath of fresh air and I feel like I could continue for many years in this regime.
“I’ve seen the white-ball team go from the sidelines, but to be in a group that takes the game forward and raises the bar for Test cricket, that’s something special.”
He said broadly The correspondence ahead of the New Zealand series: “There’s a great atmosphere around this team under Brendon and Ben. A lot of different styles work to get results but without a doubt this is the most fun environment I’ve been involved in with England .”
With Anderson and Broad still having fun and taking wickets, there’s no reason to think this partnership will end anytime soon.
Anderson is undecided about playing in the next away Ashes in 2025, aged 43. This may be difficult but he and Broad may wish India away in 2024. This could be Bazball’s biggest challenge. No team has won a Test series in India since England did so in 2012, when Anderson took 12 wickets on a tour that included Broad.
One day, Anderson and Broad’s alliance will be no more. The show calls for both. But, right now, bowling remains their focus. They may not play all the games together, with England having plenty of pacemen if everyone is fit, but there will certainly be times when they dovetail again
Anderson and Broad. Fifteen years later, she’s still going strong.