Anderson hopes best is yet to come
England record-breaker James Anderson has lived the dream for the past 10 years - and is still hoping his best is yet to come.
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Anderson put himself out on his own two days ago, ahead of the great Sir Ian Botham, as his country's leading all-time international wicket-taker.
The 30-year-old took his tally to 529 victims, and has realistic ambitions of joining the 300 club as a Test wicket-taker soon.
He may even surpass the three Englishmen to have already reached that elite milestone.
Anderson still has some way to go to overhaul Botham's national record Test haul of 383, but if he can start chipping away at it he will be playing a major role in a year of unprecedented high-profile for English cricket.
The ongoing one-day international series against New Zealand - which resumes with England 1-0 down going into the second match of three - is not yet the grand stage of 2013.
Back-to-back Ashes series in the space six months will begin in July, shortly after England bid to beat the world for the first time at 50-over cricket in the Champions Trophy on home turf.
Assignments do not come any bigger in Anderson's line of work, and even as a dual Ashes-winner already he knows the next 12 months could be career-defining.
He began on a high with that record-breaking wicket when he bowled BJ Watling with an inswinger in Hamilton on Sunday.
"It's a huge honour," he said.
"Overtaking someone like Ian Botham is a massive achievement for me, and I'm very proud of it."
Anderson's career path has not always been smooth, after a spectacular start a decade ago when it appeared for a time he simply could do no wrong.
But despite the ups and downs, the Lancastrian would not have it any other way.
"It is hard to believe, and I also still can't believe I've been playing for 10 years," he said.
"It's still all a bit of a dream come true, and I'm delighted to be still here playing - and I hope I can keep taking wickets for years to come."
To that end, Anderson is wary of star-gazing about what the next year may or may not hold.
Instead, he will stay in the present and concentrate on the job in hand - an approach he is convinced has been a major aid to his achievements so far.
"I'm really proud of where I've got to in my career and how many wickets I've taken.
"But I really want to try to keep doing what I've done well to get those wickets, and that's concentrate on the little things - each game and each spell I bowl.
"I hope then the wickets will just tot up, and I can look back at them fondly at the end of my career."
Among the highlights will surely be his 24 wickets two winters ago in England's first Ashes series triumph down under for more than a quarter-of-a-century.
He was also at his best, in unforgiving climes late last year, as England won a Test series in India for the first time since 1984-85.
Yet for Anderson, his very first international wicket - that of genius Australia wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist, as a 20-year-old at the MCG, is still right up there.
As for the future, he believes he does have it in him to move past Botham in that Test wicket-taking table.
"If I stay fit for long enough and play for long enough, I think I can," he said.
He has come to terms too, it seems, with the fact that England's developing rotation policy may prove a significant aid rather than a hindrance to his objectives.
Anderson made his mixed feelings clear last summer, when he was rested for the Edgbaston Test against West Indies.
But after another short sabbatical over the past month, he is coming round to the idea that periods of scheduled inactivity are a necessity.
He said: "I think it's one way to prolong your career.
"The rotations system has worked pretty well so far; the players have been pretty happy with it.
"Obviously you want to play as much cricket as you can, because you're not going to play forever.
"But the management, who make these decisions, have got our best interests at heart."
Anderson has not played international Twenty20 cricket, for example, for more than three years - and is beginning to accept that part of his career may remain in the past.
"I've not been involved in the Twenty20s for a while, but I'd love to play all forms of the game if I could," he said.
"The schedule probably doesn't allow it, especially with such a big year ahead, and there will be times when players have to be rested."
England (from): AN Cook (Captain), IR Bell, IJL Trott, EJG Morgan, JE Root, JC Buttler (wkt), CR Woakes, SCJ Broad, GP Swann, ST Finn, JM Anderson, JM Bairstow, SR Patel, JAR Harris
New Zealand (from): B McCullum (Captain, wkt), H Rutherford, BJ Watling, K Williamson, R Taylor, G Elliott, J Franklin, N McCullum, T Southee, K Mills, T Boult, C Munro
Umpires: R Tucker (Aus) and C Gaffaney
Third umpire: S Ravi (Ind)
Match referee: R Mahanama (SL)