Ashes 2015: Stuart Broad shows he is back to his explosive best

There is something about playing Australia that seems to bring out the best – and the worst – in Stuart Broad

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The Independent Online

There is something about playing Australia that seems to bring out the best – and the worst – in Stuart Broad, and undoubtedly the chance to extend his impressive record in cricket's oldest and most bitter rivalry has empowered him in Cardiff during the last few days.

Yet there have been signs too that the performance witnessed by a sell-out crowd here might be a new beginning for England’s most explosive fast bowler. He has endured a troubled 18 months in which he has suffered physically and mentally, with questions asked over whether  he still justified his place in the Test side.

A persistent problem with tendonitis in his right knee undermined his form last summer, while his confidence was hardly helped when his nose was broken by a bouncer from the India pace bowler Varun Aaron that smashed through his visor.

 

He had a poor World Cup, although, having undergone surgery for his knee problem only last September, the tournament perhaps came a little soon.  Meanwhile, shaken by the death of the Australia batsman Phillip Hughes in November, recurring nightmares over his own head injury led him to see a sports psychologist.

His performances in the Test series against West Indies and New Zealand were unexceptional, yet after being left out of England’s squad for the one-day series against New Zealand, Broad has come back with renewed vigour, physically sound and mentally refreshed. 

On his comeback in red-ball cricket on his 29th birthday last month, Nottinghamshire lost by an innings after County Champions Yorkshire made 430, yet Broad took seven for 84, bowling not quite at full pace but with exceptional skill.

This Test has brought a continuation of that form, as demonstrated in an opening spell yesterday that brought the early breakthrough England needed when Chris Rogers pushed at a rising ball to be caught at second slip. He struck again in his second spell, to devastating effect, as Steve Smith was taken at second slip and Michael Clarke at backward point in the space of 13 deliveries, the Australia captain falling to Broad for the 10th time in Test matches.

Coming two days after the controversy surrounding his overturned dismissal off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson invoked memories of his infamous refusal to “walk” at Trent Bridge in 2013, this was Broad getting under Australia’s skin through nothing but pure ability. The wicket of Clarke was his 70th in Tests against Australia.

Generating speeds in the mid-to-high 80s, it was bowling that offered a glimpse of Broad in his pomp, when he conjured up Ashes-winning performances at The Oval in 2009 and Chester-le-Street in 2013.

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