Thursday 22 August 2019

Broad rolls back the years with vintage five-wicket display

There was a brief punch of the air from Stuart Broad as he bowled Australia’s Steve Smith to take his fifth wicket of the innings and 100th in Ashes cricket. Stock photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
There was a brief punch of the air from Stuart Broad as he bowled Australia’s Steve Smith to take his fifth wicket of the innings and 100th in Ashes cricket. Stock photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nick Hoult

There was a brief punch of the air from Stuart Broad as he bowled Australia's Steve Smith to take his fifth wicket of the innings and 100th in Ashes cricket.

The celebration had been muted by Smith's 144, a fightback that was so predictable that if cricketers were allowed to bet, a wise old bird like Broad would have been counting his winnings.

"Is he always that fidgety? Perhaps it is because I have not played against him for 18 months, I have forgotten," Broad said. This was a painful reminder.

But the truth is, Broad's performance deserved capping off with his first five-wicket haul in England since his dream-like eight for 15 in the Trent Bridge Ashes Test four years ago.

With the new ball, he bowled his best spell for England under Joe Root, given the opposition and the occasion, and his quickest in Test cricket since the Southampton Test against India five years ago.

It was not Jofra Archer's pace, but that was not necessarily needed on this pitch and in these conditions. Cranking it up to 86mph is enough when you have Broad's skills.

He bowled fuller too, a trait of his bowling over the past 18 months. Ever since his six-wicket haul in Christchurch last year, Broad has bowled a fraction fuller. He has shortened his run-up and delivery in an attempt to find a little extra pace and bounce. He has also tried to hit the stumps more, having been told by coaches at Nottinghamshire that he was not making batsmen play enough.

"What I have been working on over the last month worked, which is a good sign," he said.

Analyst

"Peter Moores and the Notts analyst came to me about three and a half weeks ago and said my leave percentage was a bit higher than my norm.

"The last month I have been challenging myself to make batsman play as often as possible. I have not been bothered by line and length, just focusing on getting batsmen to play every ball. My leave percentage today was down below 15 which is low because it can average at 25-26.

"It was brilliant coaching and analyst work to bring to my attention and gave me a sole focus coming into today. If I had got no wickets, but those numbers came back to me as a leave percentage I would have been pleased."

For eight brief overs the old double act was back together and all was well with English cricket. Broad and James Anderson had their favourite ball in their hands and Australian batsmen were groping at thin air.

Anderson was as masterful as ever and Broad was zipping the ball past the outside edge. But the nagging worry is that the crowd who had taken their seats for the opening half an hour of play may well have witnessed the final act of England's greatest bowling duo.

If the scans confirm a serious tear for Anderson, it will put him out of the Ashes series probably until at least the fourth Test at Old Trafford, where he will be desperate to play on his home ground. How many games Broad will manage in the series is unknown and he himself admitted last week England will need a group of seven quick bowlers to cope with five Tests in six weeks.

What a shame if it is the end. English cricket will not be the same again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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