The next instalment in our new series where we compare two legendary cricketers from the same generation. Rather than necessarily settle the debate on who is ‘better’, this series attempts to illustrate who had a greater say in dictating his country’s cricketing fortunes. Along the way, you may also find a few facets of these players that are not necessarily discussed in conventional media. 

This week we compare two bowlers who have been the backbone of England’s seam attack over the past decade.


James Anderson vs Stuart Broad

 A comparison of pace bowlers in Test cricket



James Anderson

Stuart Broad

Maximum or

Highest (100%)

Number of Tests 122 102 Courtney Walsh (132)
Wickets Taken 467 368 Glenn McGrath (563)
Bowling Average 28.50 28.54 Malcolm Marshall (20.94)
Percentage of team wickets taken 12.30% 11.61% Richard Hadlee (38.25)
Bowling Impact 53 52 Dennis Lillee
Top-Middle Order Wicket Impact 74 70 Dennis Lillee
Economy Impact 36 30 Glenn McGrath
Bowling Impact in wins (min. 20 Tests) 30 33 Richard Hadlee
Impact at Home (min. 25 Tests) 56 56 Craig McDermott
Impact Away (min. 20 Tests) 36 37 Dennis Lillee
Impact in Subcontinent (min. 10 Tests) 47 40 Courtney Walsh
Impact in India (min. 10 Tests) 58 47 Kapil Dev
Impact in Aus/SA (min. 10 Tests) 32 40 Alan Davidson
Impact in Eng/NZ (min. 10 Tests) 39 39 Dennis Lillee
Impact in Ashes (min. 15 Tests) 31 48 Craig McDermott
Failure Rate (min. 50 Tests) 27% 29% Joel Garner (12%)
Number of Series-Defining performances 0 1 Richard Hadlee and Dale Steyn (7)
Number of high impact performances 17 (once every 7 Tests) 13 (once every 8 Tests) Glenn McGrath (32)
Most dominant period in career November 1995 – December 1998 November 2001 – January 2005 n/a
Number of years as highest impact bowler 0 0 Richard Hadlee – 4

(1980, 1984, 1985, 1987)

Highest impact bowler in a match 19 8 Glenn McGrath

(31 in 124 Tests)

Highest impact bowler in a series (in 37 Test series) 2 (in 30 Test series) Richard Hadlee

(10 in 33 Test series)

1) All parameters from ‘ Bowling Impact ’ till ‘Impact in Eng/NZ’ are expressed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the maximum for any player in Test history in that parameter. A player’s impact in a particular parameter is then expressed as a percentage of it.
Example: Glenn McGrath has the highest Economy Impact among pace bowlers in Test cricket history. So he denotes 100 for that parameter. James Anderson’s and Stuart Broad’s Economy Impact are then expressed as a percentage of McGrath’s Economy Impact .
2) From ‘Bowling Average’ till ‘ Economy Impact ’, a minimum of 50 matches is considered as qualification. For all other parameters, the qualification is mentioned alongside.
3) Only pace bowlers have been considered for this comparison.



Despite being the highest wicket-taker in England’s Test history, James Anderson barely makes the list of the ten highest impact English bowlers in Test cricket.

Stuart Broad is behind (3% lower impact than Anderson with the ball), marginally, and follows Anderson and Bob Willis.

Anderson has been the more prolific wicket-taker of the two, and more restrictive. He has also been more consistent.

For a bowler of such pedigree, it is surprising that Anderson has not been able to produce high impact performances in big-matches. He is the third-highest impact bowler in Test cricket history (after Alec Bedser and Brett Lee) to have not registered a series-defining performance ( SD ). This is the solitary reason why he does not have a higher impact with the ball. Even as a player, Anderson just has a solitary SD performance.

On the other hand, Broad has one SD as a bowler and three as an all-rounder (with his bowling leading the way on all three occasions).

Despite not having a big-match temperament, Anderson’s frequency of producing a higher impact performance compared to other bowlers (in both, match and series contexts) is much higher than that of Broad’s.

Broad has a 56% higher impact in the Ashes – a benchmark to judge English and Australian players.

While Anderson has had a higher impact in India and in the sub-continent (where he can make the old ball reverse), Broad has found success on the hard and bouncy tracks of Australia and South Africa.


Conventionally and even through the Impact Index sieve, there is not much separating the two. But while Anderson is hailed by many as the greatest English Test bowler (along with Fred Trueman), it is rather perplexing that Broad is not considered in the same league. This despite the fact that Stuart was a better big-match bowler (and player), and had a higher impact in wins and in the Ashes.

Nikhil Narain

Illustrations: Vasim Maner