Dale Steyn said James Anderson was a more skilful bowler than him as the two great seamers discussed their careers on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast.
South African Steyn took 439 wickets in 93 Tests at an average of 22.95 and strike-rate of 42.3 before announcing his retirement from the longest form of the game last summer.
England spearhead Anderson is the most prolific fast bowler in Test history, having claimed 584 scalps in his 151 matches to date at an average of 26.83 and strike-rate of 56.1.
“I watch Jimmy bowl and he is just ridiculous. I could never bowl those big in-swingers and use the crease the way he did,” said Steyn, on a show you can listen to in the Spotify player below.
“I am a fan of Jimmy’s, I’m not going to lie, but when you are playing against each other you can’t allow that to come out – you don’t want to show that weakness, if you want to call it that.
“I have no skill! Bowl a couple of slower balls, a fast bouncer and yorker and just try and hit the mark as often as I could.
“I could bowl really fast and as the years went on I started to develop more skills – I learnt how to swing the ball a little bit, use the crease a little bit more. But I knew what my skill was and that was to run in and bowl fast.”
I was terrible! I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t land the ball consistently enough in the right place for long enough so I had to go and play domestic cricket just to learn how to bowl. I had the talent but just couldn’t package it together.
Dale Steyn on his early South Africa career
Anderson was complimentary about Steyn, too, and admitted he used to study his fellow seamer’s method with the Kookaburra ball as he aimed to become more effective in away series, having frequently dismissed batsmen in England with the Dukes ball.
“Dale’s record speaks for itself – it is absolutely ridiculous. Unbelievable strike-rate, unbelievable average,” said Anderson, who remains a key part of England’s Test attack.
“He has done himself a disservice as he is definitely skilful, can definitely swing the ball. He swung it at 90mph-plus which was incredibly difficult to face. He was intimidating in more ways than one.
“I knew he was going to attack my stumps but also that there could be a 90mph bouncer coming – and quite often there was. You didn’t know where to look really.
“I have always seen myself and Dale as very different bowlers. At the back-end of my career, when I’ve had most success, I am nowhere near as quick.
“But Dale is someone I have definitely watched, particularly with the Kookaburra ball. It has been my nemesis for quite a long period in my career – how do you swing that red Kookaburra as he does?
“I have watched videos, looking to see if it is the wrist position. I think everyone does that.
“To become as good a cricketer as you can be you have to watch the best, not just the best from however long but also the best you are playing against so you can soak up as much as you can.”
The Dukes ball has been a huge help to me. It helps that it swings – but you still have to put it in the right area. I have found it a challenge away from home, finding ways of getting wickets on flat pitches with balls that don’t generally swing. I am happy with the way I have improved over the years. I probably haven’t torn it up anywhere but I have done a good job for the team and helped to win series in India, Australia and South Africa.
James Anderson on bowling away from home
Anderson became the ninth player – and first out-and-out bowler – to reach the milestone of 150 Tests when he played in the Boxing Day game against South Africa at Centurion this winter.
The 37-year-old suffered a rib injury in the second Test in Cape Town and missed the rest of England’s series victory, while he was then rested for the scheduled two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in March before it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Anderson was readying himself to return for England before the outbreak delayed the international summer and, on our podcast, explained how he has enjoyed such a long Test career, having made his debut under Nasser Hussain against Zimbabwe at Lord’s in 2003.
The seamer said: “There is definitely a bit of luck. I am quite a slim build naturally and I don’t have to watch my diet too much, although since getting past 35 I have had to watch it a little bit more!
“I do work fairly hard in the gym. I wouldn’t say I do loads more than anyone else but I do my fair share and I am lucky my action is repeatable and doesn’t put too much strain on my body. I still work on my action now and making sure it is as economical as it can be.
“Inconsistency crept into my game when I started tinkering with my action when [former England head coach] Duncan Fletcher wanted me to bowl a little bit quicker.
“I think I was around late-eighties [in terms of miles per hour] when I started but we were always looking for that extra two or three miles an hour, getting towards the mid-nineties.
“Looking for that lost me so much consistency and getting a stress fracture in 2006 and going back to my original action helped me so much. Everything felt more natural.
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“I had my action since I was eight years old, so when you try and change that at 20 or 21 it is such a hard thing for your body to cope with. My body didn’t cope – that’s why I ended up with a stress fracture.
“Sometimes you do need the intervention, if there is a risk of injury, but I would say try and stay away from big changes. Just try and tinker with your action. especially if you have bowled that way for a long time.”
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