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Jimmy Anderson stops just short of stealing Alastair Cook’s limelight

The Guardian logo The Guardian 10/09/2018 Andy Bull at the Kia Oval
Jimmy Anderson celebrates the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan, which put him just one away from Glenn McGrath’s record. © Andrew Fosker/BPI/REX/Shutterstock Jimmy Anderson celebrates the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan, which put him just one away from Glenn McGrath’s record.

After 15 years and 30,000 balls two of the last three wickets Jimmy Anderson needed came in a rush. Late on Monday afternoon he took two in four balls and drew level alongside Glenn McGrath on the all-time list, with 563 altogether. The two of them are equal now, for at least these few hours, as the most successful fast bowlers in the history of Test cricket. Soon enough Anderson will overtake him then, though he will still be behind the three spinners, Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, and the only question left will be how long he can go on and how many he will get.

Anderson was inches away from pulling ahead of the Australian on Monday. He will not rue it too much. His great mate Alastair Cook deserved centre stage all to himself. The fans were chanting Cook’s name right through the final session and after it was over. When the stumps were pulled, and the players back in the pavilion, the stewards swept through the stands, ushering everyone out to the street. No one wanted to go. “Really?” one man said. “We were going to stay all night.” There was not an Englishman or woman in the Oval who wanted it to end.

Related: Alastair Cook makes farewell century as England take control of fifth Test

The first of Anderson’s wickets was Shikhar Dhawan, set up by two shorter balls that pushed him on his back foot and knocked down by a fuller one that hit him flush in front of middle stump. The second was Cheteshwar Pujara, done in similar style, only from over the wicket rather than round it. Unlike Dhawan, Pujara lingered at the wicket a long while.

He was dumbstruck by his dismissal, seemed hardly to believe he could be out but waited so long before calling for what would have been a futile review that he ran out of time and was ordered back to the dressing room.

If Pujara had only watched the bowler he would have surely known that he had to go. Anderson was so sure that he had his man he seemed almost to start dancing a jig as he shouted out his appeal.

He threw his arms wide and started his feet rapping, toes tapping, legs flapping with the sheer excitement of it all, until at last he saw the umpire’s arm go up and he shouted even louder in celebration while his teammates surrounded him. That was the wicket that brought him level with McGrath.

There was some powerful magic in the air now and it felt then as though everything had been set up for Anderson to break McGrath’s record by dismissing Virat Kohli. But he did not get the chance. Stuart Broad beat him to it.

Kohli was suckered into playing at his very first ball, which was flying wide of his off stump, and he sliced the catch through to Jonny Bairstow. India were two for three, then, and in the giddy rush of all those tumbling wickets it felt as though the match, and the series, might even end that evening.

KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane rallied, in a 56-run stand. Rahul had decided to go down swinging and was almost caught three times at slip and once more at gully. Anderson almost had him lbw too. England’s slips celebrated as if he did.

They stopped only when they saw Anderson was unsure if it was really out or not. Joe Root called for the review, which showed that, while the ball had pitched in line and hit in line, it would have passed over the top of the middle stump. The spell lifted. But Anderson, the old conjuror, will cast another soon enough.

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