Australia last night refused to pour cold water on Stuart Broad's five-wicket parade. Much of the talk around The Oval after a remarkable day's cricket concerned the state of the pitch but top-scorer Simon Katich preferred to praise England's star performer rather than bury the handiwork of the groundsman Bill Gordon.
"I guess there will be a fair bit said about the pitch but the bottom line is that they bowled well and we could not stop the momentum," said opener Katich, who made 50 of the 243 runs scored while 15 wickets were being taken.
"Broad bowled well and his spell [5 for 19 in 47 deliveries] cracked the game right open. He changed his pace well, swung the ball both ways and then the crowd got involved.
"There were not a lot of balls that disturbed the surface and both Broad and Graeme Swann [4 for 17 in 37 deliveries] deserve a bit of credit rather than us talking about the pitch."
For Broad, this was a third five-wicket haul in a career still only 22 Tests old. Unless Andrew Flintoff follows suit in Australia's second innings, England's most famous player will finish with the same number of five-star performances, from 79 matches.
"If I can be half as good as he's been I will be very pleased," insisted Broad when it was suggested the team need look no further for their all-rounder once Flintoff retires from the Test arena. "I believe I can develop into a player who can bat at No 7. But I'm not him at all. How can I replace him? He has been a fantastic servant to English cricket and someone I have admired for a long time."
It was Broad's name, though, that the home fans were singing yesterday as the 23-year-old – watched by his mother, Carole, and supported from the England balcony by sister and team stats analyst Gemma – ripped through Australia's top order.
"That's as special an occasion as you can get as a cricketer – going down to fine leg when you've just taken a wicket and everyone standing and clapping," said the Nottinghamshire player. "The England fans have been fantastic through this series and, hopefully, we can repay them by winning the Ashes.
"We are in a fantastic position but we know there is a massive day coming up. It's certainly not an Ashes story yet – but if we win it might be."
England have had to keep faith with Broad through this series, But, then, showing confidence in the youngster over the past few years has never been much of a problem for them. Hit for half a dozen sixes in a single over by Yuvraj Singh during the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup? No bother. Struggling for wickets at Test level? Never mind. And their backing looks pretty well placed now, doesn't it?
Broad has a remarkably wise head on his shoulders. Forget those boy band looks, this is one tough, professional cricketer who even had the good sense not to go chasing Indian Premier League money a few months ago so that he could devote all his energies into first winning an Ashes place and then staying fit and sharp enough to keep it.
It is a pity, perhaps, that young Broad did not suggest to a couple of his elders and betters that they follow a similar approach, but that's another matter and may be largely irrelevant by the end of this weekend.
Anyway, so far as Broad is concerned, a series he dreamt of playing in has now surely lived up to expectations. It started slowly for him but burst into spectacular and unforgettable life yesterday.Reuse content