Stuart Broad bowling faster and better in a headband

When international cricket did resume again after the months of lockdown, the lead was taken by England, who were able to play test series against the West Indies and Pakistan, and three ODIs against Ireland in a bio-secure bubble centred around the grounds in Southampton and Old Trafford.

There may not have been any fans allowed in the ground this summer, but that does not mean there has not been plenty of action, with many of the headlines grabbed by the England fast bowling duo of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Both are towards the tail-end of their international careers – Anderson is now 38, and Broad 34, and both have taken to the field this summer bowling in headbands. However, they are already, statistically amongst the best bowlers ever in test cricket, and, before they hang up their spikes, could still break more records.

Anderson has just become only the fourth man in history to take 600 test wickets, and the first fast bowler to achieve the feat. His historic moment came on the fifth afternoon of the third test against Pakistan, when he edged Azhar Ali to first slip.

He is now fourth on the all-time list, which is headed by three spinners – Muttiah Muralitharan, with 800 wickets, Shane Warne who took 709 and Anil Kumble who took 619 in his test career.

Anderson could conceivably catch Kumble’s total. Although his body is showing signs of wear and tear. He only bowled four overs in the Ashes series last summer and had to come home early from the South African tour.

Question marks were raised about his continuation at test level after he returned figures of 1 – 97, after the first test against Pakistan, and, although he roared back, he may not have many more tests left in him.

Ironically, the one man who can beat his record is his teammate Broad. He joined a select group himself when he became only the 7th man in history to have taken 500 test wickets earlier this summer, and he is now only five behind Courtney Walsh’s total of 519 wickets. Ahead of him is Glenn McGrath with 563 test victims and then Anderson.

In terms of the men still playing the game, the only other two men to have taken 300 wickets are both spinners, Nathan Lyon and Ravichandran Ashwin. No other fast bowler is on that list and, realistically, none are likely to come close to Anderson and Broad.

The main reason for this is the sheer amount of test cricket that the pair have played. Anderson has featured in 156 tests for his country and Broad 143. They are lucky to play for England, a country where test cricket is still very popular, and which, in normal years at least, continues to pull-in the crowds.

With the exception of Australia, the longer form of the game is declining in popularity, with fans, players and TV companies preferring shorter, more lucrative one-day cricket and franchise tournaments.

Test series in future will be shorter, and often tours will focus on one-day matches rather than longer-form games,

It means that, even if a new generation of fast bowlers comes through with the skills to match Anderson, Broad, McGrath and Walsh, they just will not have the same matches to rack-up their numbers.

And it also means that Broad, if he keeps going for a few more years, could yet overtake his friend and colleague and could become the most successful test fast bowler of all time. It remains to be seen if he is still wearing his headband then!

Stuart Broad headband