LONDON - England captain Alastair Cook paid tribute to James Anderson as the Lancashire swing bowler closed in on a national record. Anderson needs just eight more wicket to surpass Ian Botham's England Test record of 383 in 102 Tests and could overtake the all-rounder in the fifth and final Test against India at The Oval starting on Friday. "It's an amazing achievement," Cook told reporters at The Oval on Thursday "If he does it in this game, I think it'll mean England are in a very strong position," added Cook, whose side have come from 1-0 down to lead the series 2-1. Opening batsman Cook, recalling how Anderson climbed off his sick bed to star in England's innings and 54 run win over India in last week's fourth Test at Old Trafford, said: "He's the most skilful bowler in the world. And I think that's a pretty good attribute as a bowler.
"You saw his guts and determination last week, when he was bowling when he wasn't very well. That was extraordinary. That pretty much tells me, tells everyone, what a bloke he is and to back it up with his talent and skill means he is a very good bowler." Cook said Anderson was the best bowler he had played with and was rivalled only by South Africa's Dale Steyn among current Test pacemen. Anderson has taken 376 wickets in 98 Tests at an average of 29.86 but Steyn has 383 in 75 matches at 22.56.
"No disrespect to Dale Steyn but the way Jimmy can swing the ball both ways, I don't think Dale can do that quite as well but Dale has the added advantage of being able to bowl quicker," said Cook. "I can't tell you my first impressions of Jimmy because I played against Lancashire and he called me everything under the sun. Then I went on an England 'A' tour with him and we never spoke. "We were called up to play for England together from Antigua to go to India in 2006 (for what turned out to be Cook's Test debut in Nagpur) and we were sitting together on the plane. "Now we're really good friends. "He bowls quickly now but swings it both ways and it's very hard to pick up. I can kind of spot it a little bit, but when I played Lancashire about three years ago, I was lining him up OK and then he came around the wicket and got me out third ball. "The reason he's a world-class bowler is he can do that."
Meanwhile India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said of Anderson: "He is very consistent with his line and length and that is something I would like our bowlers to learn from him. "He keeps hitting the same area. "I remember the 2007 series when he began to bowl the inswingers but he was not really accurate with it. "Over the years, he has made it a weapon for himself and troubles the batsmen a lot, especially the left-handers. "In a way, the right-hander also because he will end up at snicking the outgoing ball," said Dhoni, who tried to have Anderson banned after a dust-up with India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in the drawn first Test in Nottingham only for both the International Cricket Council's code of conduct commissioner and the governing body itself to dismiss the charges against the England star.
Anderson has taken 19 wickets at 22.94 this series at and Dhoni said: "He also got a fantastic attitude on the field. He is really someone who can take wickets at any point of the game, and that really gives the edge to England." If Anderson, who has never taken five wickets in an Oval Test innings, doesn't break Botham's record in what is set to be his 99th Test, he will have to wait almost nine months until England's next Test in the West Indies in April.