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James Anderson compared to Messi, Ronaldo as "freak" and "genius" set to retire

© Reuters
Former England bowler Steven Finn hails retiring great James Anderson as a "freak", "genius" and a "master", comparing him to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Former England bowler Steven Finn has compared retiring legend James Anderson to the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James ahead of his final match for his country next week.

Anderson will bring the curtain down on a glittering 22-year international career when England take on West Indies for the first Test at Lord's, which begins on Tuesday.

It will spell the end of the greatest career of any fast bowler in the sport's long history, with the evergreen 41-year-old sitting comfortably top of the list of all-time fast-bowling wicket-takers.

Anderson is one of only three players to have taken 700 Test wickets, alongside spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne, and could even leapfrog the late great Australian legend if he enjoys a particularly memorable farewell by taking nine wickets in the Test against West Indies.

The Burnley-born bowler's long-time former England teammate Stuart Broad is the closest to him in terms of fast bowlers, with 604 wickets to Anderson's 700.

England's James Anderson acknowledges the crowd after taking his 700th Test wicket following the dismissal of India's Kuldeep Yadav, caught out by Ben Foakes on March 7, 2024© Reuters

A "freak", a "genius" and a "master" - Steven Finn pays tribute to Anderson

Tributes are set to flood in both before and after the Lord's Test gets underway on Tuesday, as the cricketing world salutes the career of one of the all-time greats of the sport.

Anderson made his international debut in an ODI against Australia in December 2002, and played in a Test for the first time against Zimbabwe in May 2003 - more than 21 years ago.

No fewer than 100 players have made their Test debuts for England between Anderson's first cap and his last, including Finn, and the ex-England man was effusive in his praise for his former teammate.

"Having him and Broad around meant that there were less spaces in the team for other bowlers, so he might have cost me a few Test matches there, but everything that people say about him within cricket is true," Finn told Sports Mole.

"He's just an absolute genius. He's the best bowler that I've ever watched or seen live and it makes you feel pretty inadequate when you're bowling alongside him.

"He's a freak and he's a genius and he's gonna be sorely missed."

Former England bowler Steven Finn pictured in September 2023 [IMAGO]© Imago

The 'Lionel Messi of cricket'

The current generation has been privileged to witness some all-time greats across a number of sports - from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in football to LeBron James and Steph Curry in basketball, or from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in tennis to Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1 and Simone Biles in gymnastics.

Anderson's name deserves to be mentioned alongside those luminaries as among the very best in their respective sports, and having seen him in action close up, Finn credits his greatness to his relentless commitment to improving.

"He's just an absolute master of his craft. He's so dedicated to him getting better the whole time. And I think that when I played with him and when I've watched him since I retired, I think it's not the longevity and the fitness that is the most impressive thing," he told Sports Mole.

"The most impressive thing is his want and his willingness to always improve and get better. You look at the great sportsman out there. Messi, Ronaldo, LeBron James. You see them evolving all the time and James Anderson as a bowler has always done that.

"It was always striking when you were in the dressing room with him, how critical he was of his own performance and how he was always looking for ways to get better. He's disgusted that he bowls a bad ball every 15 overs and I bowl one every over."

The Test against West Indies will be Anderson's 188th for England - only India legend Sachin Tendulkar has played more in cricket history (200).

In that time, Anderson has bowled 39,877 balls at an average of 26.52, taking 32 five-wicket hauls and 10 wickets in a match on three occasions, with career-best figures within an innings of 7/42.

Steven Finn was speaking to Sports Mole on behalf of BetVictor.

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Lionel Messi poses with the Ballon d'Or trophy on October 30, 2023
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