I was just about ten in 1970 when I first remember watching test cricket on a small black and white television. I watched in the hypnotised way that is, I think, unique to kids of that age. I was sucking it all in like a sponge, trying to understand the sport, the characters and the magic of it all, building a love that would last a lifetime.

Fast bowlers or gunslingers?

Most of all I enjoyed watching the fast bowlers. I think now, reflecting back, it was because they were like the gunslingers of the cowboy films. Who was the fastest, the most destructive, the most accurate; the best?

At that age, you make your heroes for life. John Snow was the England spearhead at that time. Black hair, pale face, confrontational, lightening fast and so he became, in my opinion, the best and through the years, of course, that opinion remains; any other view seems disloyal. But I loved all the fast bowlers.

The subtleties of the game are endless and again, in some respects, mirror the gunfighters. Snow was the lone gunman, better by some way than the rest of the England attack at the time, he would demolish teams alone: Jesse James perhaps? But others hunted in pairs. Australia produced Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thompson at about that time and they hunted

But others hunted in pairs. Australia produced Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thompson at about that time and they hunted together - Butch Cassidy and Sundance?

Lillie looked like a screen villain too. Black hair, broad chest, even a moustache later on. Very fast, traditional smooth action, and he could start a fight at a prayer meeting. Thompson was all Australian, long blonde hair, and contemptuous of the opposition. He possessed an odd slinging action that some considered fastest of all time.

he was unpredictable but devastating on form. He and Lillie terrified everyone and like in the film High Noon with Gary Cooper's Sheriff and Snow had to face them alone.

Sometimes there were gangs, like the Clanton's who faced Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral. Best of these were the West Indies. They picked any four from six or eight terrifyingly quick bowlers.

Andy Roberts was always picked, consistent and subtle. As well as fast he was perhaps their best, but the most terrifying was Michael Holding who was silent, fluid and some say as fast as Thompson. His nickname was Whispering Death.

And so it has gone on ever since, with new characters emerging as others faded, always holding on to the magic. Over the last few years McGrath and Lee, modern day Australian icons completed their careers and doom mongers predicted the end for Australia. They were trounced by England in an Ashes series. Then a man mocked by English fans as having lost his skills, Mitchell Johnson, regained them overnight and destroyed England in the return series. It seemed Jeff Thompson had been reincarnated as English stumps were knocked yards along the grass.

The magic has never gone.

Jimmy Anderson

During the last decade and a half Jimmy Anderson has taken up the Billy The Kid mantle for England. He has now taken more test wickets than any other Englishman in history and so, statistically at least, is the best fast bowler (gunslinger) we have ever had. A pleasure to watch, Jimmy has the smooth style that traditionalists admire, along with almost complete control of swing and seam and at his quickest, enough fire to oust any batsman. He also shares, on the field of play, the fractious nature of Lillie and could start a fight in a phone box.

He is I fear, coming towards the end of his remarkable career, as injuries take longer to shake. The speed can still be produced, but in shorter bursts now.

He is still at the top. The last series against South Africa was won and Jimmy was still the most effective of our fast bowlers. I hope he goes on for a good while yet. The next test series against the West Indies starts tomorrow and he's in the side again.

But while we can still enjoy one of the greatest fast bowlers the game has ever produced, I would like to thank him for helping to keep the magic of cricket alive for over a decade and for making sure other young people have a gunslinger to follow.

I say he is one of the greatest and that is true. The greatest? Well, that ten-year-old boy still believes it was John Snow and the magical, enduring fact is, we will never know for sure.