There is nothing in cricket quite like two high quality fast bowlers in tandem in full flow. There is no respite for the beleaguered batsmen as he is attacked at both ends by balls flying past him, into him, over him, leaving him menacingly and finally having him dismissed through the various ways he can be out. A team that has a couple of such bowlers is doubly blessed and fortunately for cricket fans over the years many countries have been blessed to have this double menace.

Ignoring the West Indies squad of the 1975 – 2000 period which normally had four outstanding fast bowlers striking fear into the hearts of batsmen there have been several cases of teams having two truly great fast bowlers operating at the same time. The standards were set in the early years of Test cricket but then the matches played were very few and the damage they caused was limited.

With the passing of time with many more opportunities the pairings became famous and many of the names roll off the tongues of cricket followers automatically. In the last century for instance there has been Gregory and McDonald, Lindwall and Miller, Trueman and Statham, Lillee and Thomson, Willis and Botham, Donald and Pollock, Steyn and Morkel, Wasim and Waqar and towards the last stages of the West Indian dominance Walsh and Ambrose.

With the proliferation of Test cricket the numbers have gone up but the immortals with comparatively lesser number of wickets can never be forgotten for displaying the apotheosis of the art and craft of fast bowling. On figures however it is the James Anderson – Stuart Broad duo which is way ahead and even with the growing number of Test matches the stats against their names is of the mind boggling and eye rubbing variety. Between them they have taken 1090 wickets but more important they have an aggregate of 895 wickets in the 117 Tests they have played together- the most by a fast bowling pair. The next highest aggregate by a pace bowling pair is 762 in 95 Tests by Walsh and Ambrose. Wasim and Waqar follow with 559 wickets in 61 Tests together while Steyn and Morkel have a tally of 522 wickets in 62 matches.

Anderson of course is nothing short of a marvel. He turned 38 on July 30 but has lost none of his youthful zest for the game. He still loves to bowl, making the ball dart this way and that. Watching him in action during the recently concluded Test series against West Indies one could not discern any lack of effort because of his age. He has missed a few Tests because of the inevitable injury but each time he is no less energetic on his return and displays his skill in no uncertain terms.

What England would do without Anderson is too frightening even to contemplate. He has sent down over 33,000 deliveries which is amazing for a bowler of his pace. The only bowlers to have sent down more deliveries are the three spinners ahead of him, Muthiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble. The nearest competitor among fast bowlers is Walsh who ended his career having bowled 3000 balls less, As a tireless workhorse Anderson has few equals in cricket history. Captains from Nasser Hussain to Joe Root have placed the ball in his hands knowing fully well that he can be expected to deliver quite often when it matters most.

There is no talk about retirement and why should there be when he is still bowling admirably. England’s highest wicket taker – the next best is Broad some 100 wickets away – is still his team’s biggest hope when it comes to winning matches and with the 600-wicket mark not too far off this is incentive enough for Anderson to be at his best in the remaining Tests of the summer.

Broad had to overcome a chastening experience very early in his international career when Yuvraj Singh smote him for six sixes in an over in the match between India and England in the inaugural T-20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. Just 21 and yet to make his Test debut he was at a stage when his nascent career could have stalled after such a nightmarish experience.

But then even at that young age Broad had a mature head on his shoulders. He recovered quickly, came up with a series of performances that marked him out as the next big thing in English cricket and very soon was being hailed as the successor to Andrew Flintoff as England’s all rounder. He did come off with both bat and ball excelling in all formats of the game but saving his best for Test cricket.

Always the player for the big stage Broad over the years has emerged as one of England’s best players and the 500th wicket against West Indies at Old Trafford is the latest in a long line of outstanding feats he has notched up.

Broad’s blond hair and baby faced good looks serve as a camouflage for one of the fiercest competitors in world cricket. Mentally very strong, dynamic and energetic he bounds about on the field always eager to be in the thick of action. For long it appeared that he was a genuine all rounder and till mid – 2014 he had appeared in 70 Tests having got over 2000 runs with a hundred and ten half centuries besides taking almost 250 wickets.

He was also concerned in an eight wicket partnership of 332 runs with Jonathan Trott against Pakistan in 2010 which is still the world record for this wicket, Broad’s own share being 169. Then in a Test against India at Old Trafford in August 2014 he missed a hook off Varun Aaron and took the ball flush on his face. That blow dented his confidence so severely that Broad has not been the same batsman since.

But even as his batting has fallen off Broad remains a skilful bowler and in fact his bowling has acquired extra nip. At 34 he is now a thinking bowler his days as a raw young pacer behind him. Nothing symbolizes Broad the bowler better than his spell of eight for 15 against Australia at Nottingham in 2015 when the visitors were shot out for 60 before lunch on the opening day off just 18.3 overs. However well he continues to bowl Broad may never be able to top that performance.

Yes, Broad has played 140 Tests and Anderson 153 – considerably more than any other pair – but then it is not easy to maintain high quality pace bowling for so long a period. Anderson has played 17 years and Broad 13 in the midst of a packed international calendar and under the circumstances there is little doubt that in skill and longevity the duo is right up there among the greats.