After a cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand during which the performance of the England team was widely criticised, the test match squad hoped to regain some prestige for the much-maligned players when facing West Indies in Antigua. Although England failed to secure a morale boosting victory, the achievements of bowler James Anderson in becoming leading England wicket-taker did offer some welcome distraction for a team unable to dislodge the remaining West Indian batsmen during the final two sessions of the First Test.
Having amassed 399 runs in their first innings via creditable innings’ by Joe Root and Ben Stokes plus a total of 143 registered by Ian Bell, England appeared set for victory when dismissing their hosts for 295 with Jermaine Blackwood sparing the West Indies from a much lower score by compiling 122 runs.
As Gary Balance completed a century in the England second innings with Joe Root and Jos Buttler also adding over 50 runs each, a declaration was announced by captain Alastair Cook, setting West Indies an unlikely target of 438 to win the match.
West Indies then slumped to 129-4 in their second innings with the prospects of an England win becoming more promising, but Devon Smith, Denesh Ramdin and Jason Holder offered much more resistance than expected and a score of 268-6 at tea presented the England bowlers with the problem of trying to dismiss four batsmen in an increasingly confident home team. They failed in the task with West Indies eventually closing on 350-7 with Holder unbeaten on 103 runs.
Normally some blame would have directed at the England bowlers for failing to earn victory from a winning position, but with James Anderson claiming two wickets in the second innings to equal and then surpass the previous English test match bowling record of 383 wickets set by Ian Botham, more attention has been focussed on this achievement than on the failings of the team.
All-rounder Botham was the more charismatic and outgoing of the two England players, but Anderson has steadily accumulated his wickets during a 12 year period as a test match swing bowler without wishing to become anything approaching a media personality, and he has performed with consistency throughout his distinguished spell leading the England attack.
Anderson first appeared as an England bowler in 2003 when claiming five wickets on his debut against Zimbabwe at 20 years of age. There have been many more five wicket hauls since that match and it is expected that he could collect over 400 wickets by the end of 2015, if not earlier. However, with the record now broken, the attention of Anderson and his team-mates will be focussed on the task ahead of erasing the memory of the World Cup debacle and helping the team to win this three-match test series against West Indies.