Not many fast bowlers can say the turning point of their career was two expensive wickets for Auckland in an innings defeat at Eden Park.
Unless your name is James Anderson, one of the world's leading strike bowlers and newly-crowned king of England's wicket-takers, having overtaken Ian Botham in Hamilton last Sunday.
Now the senior statesman of England's bowling attack, Anderson was far from it when they last toured New Zealand five years ago. Then 25, he was battling for a frontline spot and couldn't get a run in the first test, which New Zealand won in Hamilton. The feet were itchy in his bowling boots.
An opportunity arose to play for Auckland, arranged by then-bowling coach Ottis Gibson, and Anderson seized it. Not that it was his best work, 2-95 off 38 overs, as Wellington racked up 524-6 and went on to win by an innings.
"I didn't get many wickets but I bowled pretty well and we lost that first test so me and Broady [Stuart Broad] came in for the second test ahead of [Steve] Harmison and [Matthew] Hoggard, which was a really big thing for us," Anderson said.
"They'd been the leaders of the attack for a few years and taken many wickets. It was a huge show of faith by the coach [Peter Moores] and that cricket in Auckland really put me in some good form rather than bowling out in the middle at a stump. It really set me up well for that game."
Talk about New Zealand Cricket being generous hosts. England won the next two tests, in Wellington and Napier and Anderson was off and racing. It was the end for Hoggard and very close to fulltime for Harmison.
Anderson made his first England appearance as a 20-year-old, the same year as his first-class debut. With blonde highlights in his hair, he charged in at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a 2002 ODI against Australia with Adam Gilchrist in full flight. Gilchrist became his prized first international wicket, not before he'd blasted 124 and Anderson ended with 1-46 off six.
"I think it was a wide half-volley that he chopped on. It's not my best ball I've ever bowled but, as a 20-year-old playing at the MCG, it was a huge moment for me and I'm as proud now putting on the England shirt as I was then."
He may have been proud of wearing the three lions but the early memories weren't so fond.
The likes of Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough were the senior pacemen, with Hoggard, Harmison and Andrew Flintoff emerging. With tense competition for spots, it was sometimes a lonely England dressing room.
"When you get to a certain age you feel like young guys are coming through and fighting for that spot and some guys weren't maybe as welcoming as others.
"For me, it spurs me on to try to keep improving and keep them at bay. When I was that age I looked up to bowlers and I wanted to get advice from them. But it was quite difficult to go up to them and ask them for that. I try to be as open and helpful as I can."
He mentors all-rounder Chris Woakes and rates him a special player and sees Steven Finn and Broad as two who could break his record of 529 international scalps.
Anderson went past Botham's haul when skittling BJ Watling in Hamilton. England's cricketing knight clinked glasses to congratulate him that night in the team hotel. It moved Anderson to 23rd on the all-time list, headed by Muttiah Muralidharan's staggering 1347 wickets. New Zealand's Daniel Vettori sits 13th with 679 wickets across all three formats.
Anderson, though, is far from done. His early spells in New Zealand showed his class - an economical run-up, power through the crease and the ability to move the ball both ways at 140kmh. For someone 185cm tall, far beneath his beanpole team-mates Finn and Broad, he can extract troublesome seam and bounce.
Anderson reckons his career peak was the 2010-11 Ashes in Australia, and, still only 30, sees himself as the leader of England's attack for some time yet.
It means the dreaded r-word, rotation, will be a necessary evil. After home and away series against New Zealand, England have home and away Ashes series amounting to 10 tests. He'll rest if it's best for his long-term health but it doesn't mean he'll be happy.
"The aim of doing it is to prolong our careers and especially with a big year like this with back-to-back Ashes you want your best players fit.
"You've got guys who are knocking on the door and looking to break records as well. I want to keep playing till I'm 39-40 and put that record well away from anyone else.
"I want to prolong my career as long as I can. Me keeping myself fit is part of that and the rotation policy is another part."
AT A GLANCE
Name: James Anderson
Born: July 30, 1982, in Burnley, Lancashire
Style: Right-arm fast-medium bowler, left-hand batsman
England debut: ODI tri-series v Australia, Melbourne, December 2002
England career (before last night's Napier ODI):
Test: 77 matches, 288 wickets at 30.4, best bowling 7-43, 12x5 wickets in an innings
ODI: 165 matches, 223 wickets at 30.6, BB 5-23, economy rate 5.0
T20: 19 matches, 18 wickets at 30.7, BB 3-23, ER 7.8
Most wickets for England: 529: James Anderson (288 test, 223 ODI, 18 T20) 528: Ian Botham (383 test, 145 ODI, 0 T20) 466: Darren Gough (229 test, 234 ODI, 3 T20) 405: Bob Willis (325 test, 80 ODI, 0 T20) 392: Andrew Flintoff (219 test, 168 ODI, 5 T20).
- © Fairfax NZ News
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