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Anderson's ascension to greatness confirms Larsen's prediction

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - James Anderson’s ascension to the pantheon of test bowlers when he claimed his 600th wicket on Tuesday can possibly be traced back to a prediction that current New Zealand selector Gavin Larsen made in 2008.

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Third Test - England v Pakistan - Ageas Bowl, Southampton, Britain - August 25, 2020 England's James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Pakistan's Azhar Ali and his 600th test wicket, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Mike Hewitt/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

England’s Anderson became the first fast bowler to take 600 wickets in the drawn third test against Pakistan in Southampton on Tuesday.

Back in 2008, however, Anderson was in his fifth year on the peripheries of the England team and battling for consistency.

In his 20 tests until England’s tour of New Zealand in 2008 he had taken just 62 wickets at an average of 39.20.

Not wanted for the first test in Hamilton, he was given a short-term contract by first class side Auckland and Larsen, then the chief executive of Wellington Cricket, was vociferous in his opposition.

Larsen said at the time the contract would allow Anderson to “bowl his way back into form” and would then likely open the bowling in the second test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

Anderson took 5-73 in the first innings of the second test that England won by 126 runs.

The match has been considered a transitional moment of the side and where Anderson established himself as their spearhead for the next decade.

“It was Nostradamus-like wasn’t it,” a laughing Larsen told Reuters from Nelson. “If my memory is right, I don’t think that he was overly successful (for Auckland), but it’s the old story that bowlers need miles in their legs.

“Being able to run in and bowl 30 or 40 overs would have been absolute gold dust in terms of international cricket preparation.

“There was a knowing, wry smile on my face when Jimmy did take those wickets at the Basin.

“In our own inimitable Kiwi way, we were just happy to help out the opposition, weren’t we?”

Larsen, however, praised Anderson, who has taken 538 wickets at 25.36 since that Basin Reserve test.

“His resilience and commitment and ability to come back from injury, it’s quite staggering,” Larsen said.

“That ability to run in and bowl at pace and hold that consistency that he has over the years is remarkable really.

“It’s a phenomenal performance.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Robert Birsel