The Golden Oldies: Jimmy Anderson And Sport's Other Mature Magicians

40-year-old Anderson is now the number one ranked bowler in the world
13:00, 22 Feb 2023

Jimmy Anderson has returned to the top of the ICC Test bowling rankings, surpassing Pat Cummins and staying ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin. That means the best bowler in the world is 40-years-old. It’s a remarkable achievement for a player who has spent so long at the top of the game. 

This May will mark 20 years since he made his Test debut for England and across two decades, he has astonished and amazed fans and pundits alike. 682 Test wickets puts him just 26 behind the late great Shane Warne, and there is absolutely no doubt that he has cemented himself not just as an English cricketing legend, but one for the whole world to be inspired by. 

He isn’t done yet. The Ashes this summer provides another chance for him to shine and he shows no sign of slowing down, despite now being a quadragenarian. He’s not the only one. History is littered with sports stars that have reached the top of their game in their later years, so we’ve picked out a few of the best to whom age really was just a number.


Phil Mickelson - Oldest major champion at 50

Ten years older than Anderson is today, Mickelson stood at the top of golf as he became the older major champion in history, at the age of 50. The American stunned the rest of the field when he won the PGA Championship in 2021, as he finished two shots clear of Louis Oosthuizen and Brooks Koepka. 

To put that record in perspective, the oldest winner of the Masters, something Mickelson has won on three occasions, remains Jack Nicklaus at the age of 46. Michelson won his final Masters at 40 and won the Open Championship at 43 - but winning at 50 is something truly special. 

Sir Stanley Matthews - Oldest Ballon d'Or winner at 41

Cristiano Ronaldo may have stolen the show in terms of longevity in the modern era, but the 38-year-old now looks to have written off the rest of his career with a financially lucrative move to Saudi Arabia. The real king of football in his 40s was Sir Stanley Matthews, who won the award for the first and only time, at the ridiculous age of 41. 

He won the award in 1956, in the inaugural season of the Ballon d’Or and edged out Alfredo di Stefano to the prize while playing for Blackpool. He’d go on to play until he was 50 and this Ballon d’Or record looks unlikely to ever be beaten. The closest anybody has come so far is Karim Benzema, who lifted the trophy at 34 last year. Unless Lionel Messi has a blistering 2028/29 season, nobody is coming close anytime soon.

Ronnie O’Sullivan - Oldest snooker world champion at 46

He may act like he hates the sport half the time, but Ronnie O’Sullivan continues to stay at the top of snooker. Last year, at the age of 46 years and 148 days, became the oldest ever world snooker champion as he picked up his seventh title at the Crucible. 

He might not be done quite yet though. He is still level with Stephen Hendry’s record of seven triumphs in the modern era, and needs one more to pinch that record from the 54-year-old Scot. Even the Rocket is unlikely to go close to Joe Davis’ all-time record however. He won the first 15 events before retiring in 1946 - undefeated at the event!

Dick Saunders - Oldest Grand National winning jockey at 48

In 1982, Dick Saunders created a piece of history that still stands to this day as he became the oldest ever winner of the Grand National at the age of 48. He was an amateur and steered favourite Grittar to victory at Aintree, while carrying around £30m of punters’ money! 

Saunders managed to steer clear of a race that featured one of the worst pile-ups in memory. Ten horses were brought down at the first fence and only eight runners completed the course, with Saunders on the 7/1 favourite eventually winning by 15 lengths. He also became the first member of the Jockey club to ride the winner in the race. 

The oldest horse, the real stars of the show, to win the race, remains 15-year-old Peter Simple, who passed the post first back in 1853. That record is likely to stand for a very long time. 

Suggested Searches:
The Sportsman
Manchester United
Manchester City
Premier League
Sportsman HQ
72-76 Cross St
Manchester M2 4JG
We will not ask you to provide any personal information when using The Sportsman website. You may see advertisement banners on the site, and if you choose to visit those websites, you will accept the terms and conditions and privacy policy applicable to those websites. The link below directs you to our Group Privacy Policy, and our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at: [email protected]

All original material is Copyright © 2019 by The Sportsman Communications Ltd.
Other material is copyright their respective owners.