England seamer James Anderson described it as “surreal” as he became only the sixth bowler to take 500 test wickets on Friday.
The 35-year-old Lancastrian, who began the third and final test against West Indies on Thursday with 497 wickets, ripped Kraigg Brathwaite’s middle stump out of the ground with a textbook inswinger to reach the landmark in style.
Anderson, whose first wicket also came at Lord’s against Zimbabwe in 2003, took his tally to 501 later with another unplayable delivery to bowl Kieran Powell as West Indies ended the day on 93 for three in their second innings — a lead of 22.
A setting sun, purple clouds and the blazing Lord’s floodlights provided a fittingly dramatic backdrop for Anderson’s big moment which earned him a standing ovation.
“It feels good. It’s a bit surreal. I can’t believe I have this many wickets or I have played this much cricket. I’m a bit relieved to have it out of the way,” he said.
“Ideally I’d have done it yesterday but, from the team’s point of view, we bowled really well.
“It’s a great place to bowl. I got my first wicket here and now I have my 500th. My family and friends were in the crowd.”
Anderson is only the third pace bowler to take 500 test wickets and is only 18 behind former West Indies great Courtney Walsh, the first bowler to reach the landmark.
Australia’s Glenn McGrath is the other quickie on the list with 563 and Anderson hopes to get nearer to both of them.
“I’m loving it at the moment and want to keep playing as long as possible,” he said. “If I can keep going for another two or three years I might get somewhere near.”
Tributes poured in for Anderson, with former team mate Graeme Swann describing him as “a phenomenal talent”.
“He was also born to bowl,” Swann said. “He likes his records and milestones and is aware of his numbers at each ground, but his main drive is simply to take wickets.”
Former England skipper Nasser Hussain added: “He’s been a credit to his country and when he gets that ball in his hand there aren’t many bowlers better than him.”
Alec Stewart, another former England skipper, said: “We are talking about James Anderson, a world great. He is up there with McGrath, (Curtly) Ambrose, Walsh…”
Anderson’s 501 wickets have come at an average of 27.7 with 330 wickets coming at home compared to 171 on foreign soil.
Former West Indies paceman Michael Holding said was the only statistic that counted against Anderson.
“He’s done exceptionally well in England, but he hasn’t done so well away from home,” Holding told Reuters.
“He uses the conditions here beautifully. He’s in the list of all-time English greats with the volume of wickets but there are others who I would still rank higher.”
The three leaders on the all-time list are Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Australian leg spinner Shane Warne (708) and Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble (619).