Anderson's critics have always maintained that he is a home track bully, that he only produces his best in favourable home conditions- and that therefore his reputation as one of his generation's leading bowlers is undeserved. Anderson's 6-47 on a seaming pitch at Edgbaston can hardly dispel that impression.
Although it's certainly unfair to suggest that he never produces away from home it is probably fair enough to say his home record is much more impressive than his away one. As far his average goes, he takes his wickets at 26.80 at home and 34.04 away.
What I want to do in this post is put that difference in some context. Yes, Jimmy Anderson takes his wickets more cheaply at home- but is he extraordinary in that regard or is he just an example of a very common phenomenon? Is his reputation more dependent on home performances than that of his peers in the fast bowling fraternity?
The graph above shows the difference between the home and away bowling averages for the world's 16 leading fast bowlers, as defined by the current ICC rankings. I should note that in the case of Pakistan's Junaid Khan I have counted his games in the UAE as being at home, since that's where Pakistan have played their 'home' games during his career.
Almost all of these 16 pace merchants have better averages at home than away- and of course it's no surprise that bowlers prefer conditions they're familiar with, where they learned their trade and gained their reputation. The three buckers of this trend are Josh Hazlewood, Tim Southee and Junaid Khan. As discussed above, Junaid Khan has never played a 'true' home test, and for that reason I was in two minds about including him. Josh Hazlewood has played only 8 tests (3 at home, 5 away) and so his startling stats should probably be taken with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lime and a shot of tequila.
James Anderson, meanwhile, sits in the midst of a cluster of bowlers who average between 5 and 8 runs higher away than at home. The gap between his home and away performances is thus a little on the high side but by no means extraordinary amongst his fast bowling peers.
You can say Jimmy is a home track bully if you want, but in that case test cricket's home track playground is full of them. Bowlers who consistently excel to the same high level in all countries and conditions are rare beasts indeed.