Joe Root summed up the feelings of England cricket fans as he simply declared James Anderson ‘the GOAT’ after his devastating impact in India.
The evergreen bowler – who will turn 39 in the summer – turned in one of the most brilliant spells of his distinguished career on day five of the first Test to help England seal a famous win.
With England chasing nine wickets on the final day to secure victory, Anderson tore the heart from the Indian line-up in a five-over stint of three wickets for just six runs.
Jack Leach spun his way to figures of four for 76 but Anderson defied conventional logic around the role of seamers at the conclusion of matches in the sub-continent as he got a wearing ball to hoop in devastating fashion.
His first over of the day will go down as a stunning example of the art, sending the off stump somersaulting twice in four balls to send Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane back to the pavilion.
Rahane was fortunate to survive an lbw shout a few seconds earlier and first-innings top-scorer Rishabh Pant was later beaten by an off-cutter from round the wicket, with the 38-year-old cycling through his considerable arsenal.
His efforts had England fans purring in delight and his captain repeating last summer’s refrain that Anderson was the greatest of all-time.
“He’s just the GOAT I reckon, leave it there. He seems to get better all the time,” said Root.
“His skill level keeps improving, his work-rate is as good as anyone’s I’ve ever seen and his fitness levels are probably the best they’ve ever been. He’s a credit to English cricket.
“When you’re under pressure and need something to happen, if you’ve got him in your armoury it’s a very comfortable position to be in.”
Asked to place Anderson’s first six balls in context, Root reached back to an old touchstone of English cricket.
“I can’t think of (a better over) in my time. It reminded me of Andrew Flintoff in 2005, the impact of that over to (Ricky) Ponting and (Justin) Langer. Big-game players stand up and do special things.”
After 158 Tests and 611 wickets, Anderson was happy to leave the superlatives to others as he played down his latest masterclass.
“I didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary from the plans we had,” he said.
“I was just lucky really with a couple that hit the bare patches and a bit of reverse as well. So there was a bit of luck involved as well but I was happy with how it went. It’s always nice to see the stumps cartwheeling out the ground. It doesn’t happen very often at my age so I’m really happy with it.
“To be honest I was more expecting an lbw, one to keep low or a caught midwicket with one that stuck in the pitch a little bit.”