Moments after he’d taken the final wicket to confirm a 4-1 series win and overtake Glenn McGrath as Test cricket’s most prolific fast bowler, James Anderson couldn’t contain his emotion when asked about the retirement of England legend Alastair Cook.
“He’s my best mate, he’s been brilliant just to be there for me all the time,” was about all Anderson could get out before the tears took hold and the Sky Sports interviewer allowed him to gather himself.
The whole Test match has felt like a farewell for England’s record runscorer, with Cook claiming the Player of the Match award for his second innings’ 147, his 33rd and last Test century.
“Beefy [Sir Ian Botham] texted me last night saying, ‘can I have my script writer back?’,” said Cook. “It was amazing, for me on a selfish level to hear everyone cheering, for all of my friends and family who came on day four, somewhere it was written. This week can’t be beaten. I can walk away with my head held high and I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Cook paid heartfelt tribute to Test cricket’s leading seamer and his long-time friend Anderson for his milestone and for so much more. “To see Jimmy pass Glenn McGrath’s record today was just brilliant. Him and Broady I’ve played so much cricket with, and that was probably the hardest bit when you’re making the decision, even though the decisions quite easy, knowing that I’ll never stand at first slip and drop another catch off one of those two again.
“We have lived in each other’s pockets for 12 years. We were talking the other day and there’s a picture of us and Swanny all lying together in India, fast asleep in exactly the same position, I thought it shows how close we’ve become. It’s been a priviliege to play with England’s greatest cricketer.
“No disrespect to any of the other guys, but his skill to do it time and time again, you almost take it for granted that he’s going to hit a length from ball one until the 90th over every single time and we he doesn’t you almost think, what’s wrong? It shouldn’t be like that. We do take him for granted, and that spell today when the game was a little bit tight, I don’t think he missed his length once outside off stump. It’s only fitting that he gets the wicket, knocks middle stump out to win the Test match for England.”
After Anderson had regained his composure, he and Cook addressed the media one last time, with Anderson explaining succinctly why he’d gotten so emotional.
JA: It’s his last game innit!
AC: It’s a great way to finish, Jimmy knocking the stump over. The number of flights we’ve taken, hotel rooms, room services, dinners out, hours on the field we spend together, obviously I’m going to miss that, but it will be a privilege to sit up there and watch him continue to take wickets. 564 is it now?
JA: I’ve lost count. Laughs
AC: God knows how many it will end up.
JA: As I tried to say before, he’s just been such a solid bloke, as a mate, all the tours you go on, I’ll miss that shoulder to actually cry on. It will be nice to get someone in at first slip who can actually hold onto a few, who knows how many I might have got if he could catch? The hole he’s leaving isn’t just at the top of the order, it’s the whole package in the dressing room. What he’s brought to the team, what he’s done for England cricket as a captain and as a player, he’s gone above and beyond and that’s what will be missed.
AC: Someone’s got to tell him just to bowl a little bit fuller. That was my job in the team, for the last seven or eight years, ‘Jimmy do you want a bowl a little bit fuller?’ and then the daggers looking at me!
For all the runs scored and wickets taken, it’s each other they’ll miss the most.