Aspiring reporter Jimmy Anderson writing own headlines!

When Jimmy Anderson ‘sought me out’ one evening asking for ‘career advice‘, I’m guessing that never in a million years did he think one day he would eclipse the legendary Sir Ian Botham as England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker.

Tuesday, 21st April 2015, 8:00 am
Englands James Anderson, second from right, celebrates taking the wicket of West Indies Denesh Ramdin, during the last day of their first cricket Test match at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua

If my memory serves me correct, it was around 15 or so years ago when I was enjoying a pint or two at the Ighten Leigh Social Club upstairs bar in Padiham Road, Burnley, when in walked Jimmy.

I think I was there for some kind of party, although I am sorry to say, I cannot remember whose ‘do’ it was.

By sheer coincidence Jimmy, who was probably aged around 18-years-old at the time, had also been invited too.

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Jimmy Anderson celebrates his first Test wicket

I had got to know him quite well due to my role as a young local sports reporter for the Burnley Express.

One of my main roles during the summer was to cover the fortunes of Burnley Cricket Club in the Lancashire League.

I was lucky - my time spent watching Burnley coincided roughly around the same time as Jimmy was starting to make his mark as a promising fast bowler in the first team at Turf Moor.

Even though he was beginning to exude a certain amount of x-factor on the cricket pitch with his propensity to bowl fast and dismiss big-name Lancashire League professionals, it is fair to say nobody in the pavilion at Turf Moor was predicting that he would go on to make one Test appearance for England, let alone 100.

There may have been a few murmurs among the Burnley supporters that Jimmy might be worth a look by Lancashire, but as he approached the end of his time at St Theodore’s RC High School sixth form, Jimmy was obviously thinking about his future when he intimated to me at the bar that night that he quite fancied the idea of a career in sports writing.

How serious Jimmy was about a journalistic career only he knows, but for what it was worth, I gave him the benefit of my experience.

Our conversation soon proved immaterial as within the year, he had taken the county circuit by storm after making his debut for Lancashire.

A little more than a couple of years later, his meteoric rise was complete when he made his England bow against Australia Down Under.

How ironic that since our meeting in the Ighten Leigh, Jimmy has been the subject of many newspaper column inches across the world due to his exploits on the cricket pitch.

But perhaps most remarkable of all is that England’s all-time leading wicket taker reached the age of 18 unsure as to whether he even had a future in the game as a professional player.

I’ll always remember Jimmy turning up to at the Horsfield Ground to watch his old Burnley team-mates against Colne.

He was in the middle of his first full season at Lancashire and had taken a number of wickets including the prized scalps of the then England skipper Nasser Hussain and top batsman Mark Ramprakash.

As he wandered around the outfield, It was possibly his first glimpse of fame.

People pointed and stared at him, while others shook his hand and wished him well.

Eventually, he found a moment and sat himself down next to me.

Intrigued to get the insight into his remarkable success, Jimmy just shook his head and said. ‘I can‘t bloody believe it all myself‘.

Much has been made about how quiet and unassuming Jimmy is off the field and I remember him as painfully shy - even awkward - as a kid until you got to know him and then he was great company.

The first time I ever interviewed him, I met him in the bar at Burnley Cricket Club after he had bowled to ex-England skipper Mike Atherton in the nets at Lancashire.

I spent the majority of the 10 minute-interview gaining one-word answers and putting words into his mouth.

Interviewing him got easier as he got older, but he would always tell me “Not to big me up too much” in any subsequent articles, such was his reluctance of the limelight.

In those early days, he also displayed some of that grumpiness on the field, which he is so famed for now.

If things were not going too well, his body language often left a lot to be desired much to his team-mates’ frustration.

His preparation for games was not always the best too.

Fond of a night out around his home town, I lost count of the number of times Burnley fan Ken Shapcott, who never missed a game, informed me that Jimmy was sending his deliveries down while nursing a severe hangover.

I am sure Jimmy will be fresh and fully prepared today for his 101st England appearance in the second Test against the West Indies, in St George‘s.

Now that he has broken the record, he will be keen to play his part in another England victory and make his home town proud of him once more.