Broad backs home crowd to drive on England

'Phenomenal' support for Oval win over Pakistan lifts side for tough Super Eights
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The Independent Online

For those who remain snooty about Twenty20, Stuart Broad's assessment yesterday may induce an extended harrumph. It seems that the fans are going wild about it.

"A further advantage for us," said Broad looking at how England may make further progress in a tournament from which they came close to being eliminated, "is the support we're getting. At The Oval against Pakistan it was just phenomenal and certainly the best atmosphere I've played in at home. The English fans were right behind us which gave us a big lift."

The noise and passion at The Oval last Sunday, not all of it from England followers, was a rare, possibly unprecedented occurrence in this country. As the World Twenty20 has progressed the involvement of the fans has been significant.

It would not do for Test cricket to be played in such circumstances – though nobody has satisfactorily explained why not – but it is all part of Twenty20 and another reason, apart from its brevity, that it may continue to flourish. But it is still merely tolerated in some quarters, the filthy relation you put up with while looking down on because he can't hold his cutlery properly.

The snooties may have a point because the only close game so far has been the first when England went down to the Netherlands off the last ball. If T20 produces a series of easy victories it will swiftly lose its lustre and much depends on the Super Eights which begin tomorrow. The fact that in the last three of the 12 qualifying games qualification has not been at stake pointed to a defective format.

The host nation can afford to make no more mistakes and face a very tough group in the Super Eights, in which to progress to the semi-finals they must beat one of either South Africa, the favourites, and India, the holders and second favourites.

"I'm sure the Trent Bridge crowd will do for us against the South Africans what the Oval did for us because we're going to have to play very well to win, but it is something we're more than capable of," Broad said. "I think we stand a very good chance in this World Cup because we're playing exciting cricket and we've got batsmen who can clear the ropes."

The trouble is that there are too few. South Africa have sluggers from one to eight in their order and this will give them a distinct edge. They simply have more men who know how to score 20 off 10 balls.

It would be understandable if Broad hated Twenty20. In the first World Twenty20 in South Africa two years ago he was hit for six sixes in an over by Yuvraj Singh of India, a fact about which he might just be reminded before next Sunday when the teams meet at Lord's.

Against the Netherlands last Friday, it was Broad who bowled the decisive last over. The bowling was as incisive as could be, but his fielding was the stuff of nightmares. He missed three run-out chances and a return catch and the Dutch scampered two from his last-ball overthrow.

"I tried to hit the stumps and missed with two efforts but there wasn't any suggestion that I shouldn't try again at the last. I've heard some people saying I should've held it and taken it to a super over, but that's not the way people want to see cricket being played."

England, of course, are still in the World Twenty20, unlike some contenders for the Ashes, to wit Australia. Instead of being in the Super Eights, 10 of their number are holed up in Leicester for the next two weeks awaiting the other members of the Ashes squad.

Broad said: "Australia will be bitterly disappointed, but it just goes to show what Twenty20 cricket is like. Their focus will probably have switched to the Ashes." The suspicion is – and England have faced a similar conundrum – that their focus had already switched no matter what the fans want.

Ashes watch

28 days to go:

Australia's exit from the World Twenty20 has gone down badly Down Under. The Brisbane Courier-Mail was most damning, blaming 'big-time arrogance'. Surely not.