On 7th February 2021, 43-year-old Tom Brady won the Super Bowl. Just 48 hours later 38-year-old James Anderson produced one of the great bowling spells in Cricket history. As a result, both have been lauded as the Greatest Of All Time in their sport, at a time when they’re supposed to be past their best. Furthermore, “Jimmy” did it in conditions that it is repeatedly claimed do not suit him. Against the number 1 ranked team in the world who had only lost once at home the preceding eight years.
James Anderson is the leading wicket taker for a fast bowler in history. To achieve this many wickets you need to be A) good and B) have a long career avoiding injury. The longevity of a fast bowler’s career is usually shorter than a spin bowler due to the intensity of the action and the stress it puts on the body. Let’s take a look at how James Anderson’s movements helped him stay top of his game for such an extended period of time.
Firstly, to highlight how good the bowling spell was statistically, the official England Cricket team tweeted:
Simply put, that is a phenomenal spell of bowling. You might expect that bias from James Anderson’s employers, but the accolades came from one the great batsmen from his opponents too.
Just how good was this victory by England?
This eye-catching tweet highlights that Anderson’s performance has not dropped off over time. He is performing as well post-30 as he was before, at a time when most fast bowler’s performance is supposed to be tailing off.
The following GIF from Jimmy’s domestic side and his home county displays how consistent James Anderson is with his delivery. His action is highly repeatable, with little difference between delivery. It looks identical, with the only tell being the difference in bat load by the two Indian batsmen. This ability to repeat delivery shows the understanding Anderson has in his movement. Each body system is synchronised to work efficiently. It means that Anderson is able to focus on game plans targeting opposing batters, he is not distracted by thinking about what his body he has to do. He has an understanding of how he should move. This allows him to correct and counter-balance as required. Consequently, Anderson trusts his movement and can bowl freely. This reduces risk of overpitching or straying from the desired line of delivery.
After James Anderson burst onto the scene in 2003 the England Cricket team saw fit to change his action. This led to significant injury that hampered Anderson’s development. Since then he has returned to an action that mirrors his original delivery. Albeit with a few tweaks.
Anderson has commented that his run up has changed after trying to replicate elite sprinters actions. In comparison to his delivery from 2003, in 2020 his run-up is amended. His run-up starts at the same point, but in 2020 he takes more walking steps before starting his run. Consequently, now he takes 12 steps to release and 10 to the skip, whereas in 2003 it was 14 to the release and 12 to the skip. In an analysis done on Sky Sports last summer the legendary West Indian bowler Michael Holding discussed how rhythm and slowly building up momentum as being key to fast bowling success. This appears something that James Anderson has implemented.
There is also less intensity in his action. This can be seen below where the picture on the left shows how his back and back of his head faces the bowler and the lead shoulder points away from batsmen at the end of his release. In comparison, on the right it can be seen that the back of his head no longer faces the bowler.
On his follow-through James Anderson’s head falls to left side following direction of his lead foot. This is almost 90 degrees flexion at the hips in 2003. However, this is a much lesser angle now. Anderson requires a strong pelvic strike to counter-rotate and provide counter-balance. This movement moves up through his spine and allows his head to look up, allowing his vision to see where the ball meets the batter.
As a result, we see that his action is not as violent today and does not put as much strain on his neck and spine. However, this does not impact on the success of his delivery (as we can see from Ben Jones’ tweet above). This suggests that Anderson’s movement is more efficient.
Following the skip, Anderson lands on his right foot, which has turned 90 degrees toward leg-side and pivots to point forward. Consequently, it shows the importance of good rotation through Anderson’s leg and his ability to shift his weight onto the inside of his foot and big toe. The video below, from a recent test, shows this in slow-motion. Following this his lead rotates with his foot pointing out to his left. Throughout James Anderson shows good weight transfer from back to front making his action more efficient.
Anderson’s shoulders are square as he reaches the crease and takes off on his skip. There is a pelvic strike in mid-air to close shoulders to batsman as he brings his lead arm and shoulder to point toward batsman, while the delivery shoulder moves back. This movement shows obvious evidence of rotation playing a significant role in Anderson’s delivery.
To this point both knees are flexed. However, as the lead leg lands it extends to provide a strong lever. In this instance the left foot acts as a fulcrum, over which the body’s momentum acts as leverage increasing the output in Anderson’s delivery. However, rotation is a key factor in the success of this lever. Importantly, the hips create the first movement, generating the torque required for the pace of the delivery, and the shoulders and right foot follow. This emphasises the importance of Anderson possessing a strong pelvic strike. It also displays the integration between shoulders, hips and feet. They are co-ordinated and if one aspect was not working in unison then it would create strain and injury problems.
Anderson’s delivery arm releases the ball at highest point. To do this his shoulder is high, which requires a strong pelvic strike. Following this the lead arm plays a big role in bringing the delivery arm through. As Anderson stepped forward following the skip his lead arm is high with his elbow just above his lead eye, tight to his body. Following this the lead arm bends slightly at his elbow and quickly comes through remaining tight to his body, ultimately bushing his thigh. This brings the delivery arm through following a similar path, demonstrating integration between the two arms. Consequently, this increases efficiency, reducing the strain on the delivery arm. Furthermore, greater control is provided to the delivery arm.
From the moment the hips initiate the movement following the skip there is significant rotation through Anderson’s spine as his lead shoulder starts facing the batsmen and finishes pointing toward the long-off boundary. Without this ability to rotate there would be increased injury risk and greater strain on the neck, shoulders, back and hips.
Finally, as Anderson completes his delivery a pelvic strike moves up through the back to bring his head back up to see where the ball lands.
In conclusion, over the course of James Anderson’s career he has found success, had his action changed, resulting in injury and limited success, before returning close to his initial action. Consequently, it provides support for the belief that you should not significantly alter a young player’s technique. Instead, allow a natural action but improve efficiency by ensuring integration and efficiency of each aspect of the action. Jimmy Anderson’s successful bowling action relies on rotation, pelvic strike and integration of the different body systems. Therefore, he has reduced the intensity of his action to limit the strain placed on his body, reducing injury risk. Movement Lesson can help replicate this elite action in aspiring bowlers too. For more information on how, please add your details here. You can also fill in your details if you want to improve your movement by receiving a free Movement Lesson Sports Academy self-session. You can also subscribe to our Movement Lesson Sports Academy YouTube page and follow our twitter @_ML_UK for regular updates.