Lancashire and England cricket hero James Anderson and the phone call from a friend’s mum which set him on the path to glory

James Anderson might be one of the greatest Test cricketers of all-time – but not many know it took a phone call from his friend’s mum to help him break into the big time.

Anderson’s mate Michael Brown played with him at Burnley Cricket Club from the youth to first team.

Michael [back, middle] and brother David [front, left], alongside Anderson [front, right] for Burnley Cricket Club. Photo credit: Michael Brown

And it was Brown’s mother who took things into her own hands to make sure Anderson got noticed.

“My mum thought it was silly James hadn’t had a trial (for Lancashire) so she picked up the phone, rang the academy director at the time and said ‘look we have a guy at Burnley who is doing really well and you should look at him’,” Michael said.

“Soon after, James was invited to trials, selected for one of the teams and a few years later he went to the World Cup.”

Meanwhile, Brown went on to have a successful career in county cricket himself, where he represented Middlesex, Hampshire and Surrey.

And the 43-year-old, who began his career at the Turf Moor club, recalled his first memories of Anderson.

“My first recollection of James was of his physique when he was 10 or 11,” said Brown.

“He was lean, flexible, a good mover with a lovely action. He could bat, bowl, field and he was just a good young cricketer like many others at the club at the time.

“I was 17 when James made his first team debut. He was 15.

“He had a whippy action and swung the ball, so inevitably you think this lad is going to be quite good, but there was still no comprehension he would achieve what he has.”

Anderson became the oldest player to top the ICC Men’s Test bowling rankings after he took seven wickets in England’s first Test victory over New Zealand last month.

The Lancastrian, who reclaimed top spot for a sixth time in his career, has taken 685 wickets, which sees him sit behind Muttiah Muralitharan [800] and Shane Warne [708] in the all-time standings.

But way before his achievements on the international scene, Brown recalls a time Anderson – while at Burnley – bowled former South African international Martin Van Jaarsfield with a ‘magical’ first ball, which earned Anderson the nickname ‘The Cold Killer’.

Due to Anderson’s success and the illustrious international career that followed, the childhood friends only played against each other twice.

Brown remembers when they faced off in a County Championship match, the first time the duo had been on the same pitch since their days in the nets at Burnley.

“I was just thinking ‘I do not want to get out to him’, but he bowled me a big inswinger which knocked out some of my stumps,” he said.

“Not that getting me out was anything to shout about, but it certainly gave him the bragging rights when we went back to Burnley – he was just too good for me on that day.”

The England hero has always devoted time to his boyhood team, and while Brown was chairman at Burnley, Anderson would sponsor the club out of his own pocket so a charity featured on the kits.

Dan Pickup, who is a current first team player and director at Burnley, remembers making his debut for the club alongside Anderson, despite being four years younger.

The 36-year-old, who has captained Burnley for the last six seasons, says it isn’t a surprise anymore seeing Anderson top the Test rankings.

Pickup said: “James went from being one of our players to playing for England so quickly that it took a long time for it not to feel odd when we’d see him on the tele – but now it’s the norm, which is ridiculous to say.

“The club’s always been proud of Jimmy, who is now synonymous to Burnley – he has put the club on the map. You cannot watch a game of cricket he plays in without the commentator referring to Burnley.”

As well as inspiring the next generation of cricketers from the town, Pickup praised Anderson for paving a way for working-class youngsters to hit the heights.

“Often cricket does get stick for being inaccessible and a big deal has been made of international players coming from private school backgrounds as a way into the sport,” Pickup said.

“For there to be an example like Jimmy, who came through playing club cricket to being the best bowler in the world, it must be so inspiring to young players in saying that they too have a shot and that it isn’t out of their reach.”

Brown echoed the impact Anderson’s success has had on the mood around the town, which he linked to the success of the football club, who are set to return to the Premier League.

“The two sporting things you associate with Burnley would be football and Jimmy Anderson,” he said.

“The sporting successes are a fundamental part of how the people in Burnley feel about themselves. When the football club is doing well, the town is in a great mood.”

Barring a disastrous collapse, Vincent Kompany’s Clarets will make it back to the top division in May.

And a month later, when Australia come to these shores for the Ashes, Burnley’s other sporting hero – Anderson – will be aiming to add even more wickets to his record-breaking haul.