James Anderson celebrates his first Test wicket against Zimbabwe in 2003 (left), the wicket that made him the most successful pace bowler in Test history, overtaking Australia’s Glenn McGrath (middle) and his most recent Test wicket of India’s Shubman Gill in July (right)
When James Anderson walks out for the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s he will be doing so in the longest format of the game for the 173rd time, but there will be a difference.
It will be the first time he has done so since his 40th birthday at the end of July.
Cricketers playing into their 40s is rare, but it is even more rare that pace bowlers like Anderson do, with only players like England’s Maurice Tate in 1935 and Gubby Allen in 1948 among those to do it.
The fact that Anderson is still playing and, most importantly, performing is testament to one of cricket’s greats and perhaps reward for leaving behind white-ball cricket in 2015 in an attempt to prolong his Test career.
It can be more common in other sports, here are some other elite names to play past 40 and how they have fared…
Tom Brady (44)
American football legend Tom Brady has won two Super Bowls since turning 40.
At 41, he won a sixth ring with the New England Patriots in 2019 and he repeated the feat earlier this year, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Vince Lombardi Trophy aged 43.
He is the oldest NFL MVP at 40 and the oldest Super Bowl MVP at 43 and is set to continue playing for the Buccaneers next season, after deciding his retirement was premature.
Tiger Woods (46)
Tiger Woods has won the Masters five times – the last coming in 2019
Tigers Woods is one of golf’s greats and is a name that is synonymous with the sport.
The American is ranked second in the all-time list for major championships with 15, three behind compatriot Jack Nicklaus.
His last major came in 2019, when, at the age of 43, he ended an 11-year wait by claiming a fantastic fifth Masters title at Augusta National.
In that wait he underwent four back surgeries, had personal issues and slumped to as low as 1,199th in the world rankings.
A car crash in February 2021 saw him suffer serious leg and ankle injuries and he has indicated that his full-time professional career is over and that he will play in a select few events every year, as he did in the Masters and The Open this year.
Gianluigi Buffon (44)
Gianluigi Buffon returned to his first club Parma from Juventus last year
Legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has had a very successful career, including winning the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and lifting 11 league titles.
He is still playing Serie B football for Parma at the age of 44, and made 26 appearances in the 2021-22 season as they finished 12th.
Since turning 40 in January 2018 he has lifted two Serie A titles with Juventus and one Ligue 1 title with French side Paris St-Germain, making over 40 appearances across those seasons.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (46)
Since turning 40 in 2015, Ronnie O’Sullivan has won two World Snooker Championship titles, meaning he is now level with Stephen Hendry on a record seven world titles in the modern era.
After winning at the Crucible aged 44 in 2020, he repeated the trick aged 46 in this year’s edition, to become the oldest world champion.
The Rocket has also won two UK Snooker Championships, another of the Triple Crown events, since celebrating his 40th birthday.
Fernando Alonso (41)
Fernando Alonso won back-to-back F1 world titles in 2005 and 2006
Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso turned 40 in 2021 and has finished on the podium once since celebrating the landmark.
It came in last season’s Qatar Grand Prix, and was his first podium in seven years, although he did have two seasons away from the sport.
The Spaniard has been in the points in nine of the 13 races to take place so far in the 2022 season and has signed a multi-year deal with Aston Martin from the 2023 campaign onwards.
Serena Williams (40)
Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, turned 40 in September last year.
The American is one Grand Slam title behind Margaret Court’s all-time record and returned from a lengthy injury lay-off to play at Wimbledon this summer but lost in three sets to Harmony Tan.
She has since revealed she is “evolving away” from the sport after the US Open, which starts on 29 August.