James Anderson, along with his long-time new-ball partner Stuart Broad, was left out of England's squad for the Caribbean tour a few months ago after the team's shambolic performance in the Ashes.
Anderson didn't fare too badly in the three Tests he played in the series, picking up eight wickets including a four-for at an average of 23.
But England, in an attempt to make a wholesale change after the Ashes debacle, axed two of their leading wicket-takers in Tests. Anderson was frustrated, angry and shocked. He said in a podcast, "I am praying this is not the end."
And his prayers were answered. England started the 2022 summer with a new managing director in Rob Key, a new coach in Brendon McCullum and a new captain in Ben Stokes who, on his appointment, gave a very strong indication that the duo would return to the Test fold immediately.
And Anderson, on his return to the most elite form of the game, made an immediate impact. He struck in his second over of the ongoing Lord's Test to see the back of Will Young. The right-arm seamer, who turns 40 in a couple of months, was in business again in the next over. This time it was Tom Latham.
He got two more in the first innings and saw a youngster in Matthew Potts to claim a five-for on his Test debut. Potts was barely four years old when Anderson made his international debut and here he was, bowling in tandem with the veteran.
But the energy Anderson possessed was no less than that of Potts. He bowled 16 overs in the first innings, more than any of the England bowlers. And he was getting the ball to swing a lot. The deliveries dismissing Young and Latham had the most swing in the morning session, according to CricViz.
Then he returned to get rid of Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee - both off short balls - and it was the first time in four years that Anderson got more than one wicket off short balls in an innings. Not a one-trick pony.
A lot has been spoken about Anderson's longevity but one can't simply stop admiring how fit he is despite being almost 40. After turning 35, Anderson has taken 165 wickets from 45 matches at an average of 21.55 which is much lower than his career average. Only Courtney Walsh (180 wickets) has more wickets in Tests among pacers after 35 but it seems a matter of time before Anderson batters his tally.
Now let's compare his performances with those of the active players. In the last five years, Anderson has taken 178 wickets at 21.25 including 10 five-fors. During this period, only Australia's Pat Cummins has taken more wickets than him among pacers and his average is marginally better than Anderson's. But no pacer has taken more five-wicket hauls than him in the last five years.
In 2018, Anderson said that he 'vowed' to keep playing for another two years. Well, it's been four years and England's greatest is still one of the best in the business and making the ball talk and making the batters dance to his tunes.