Golden boy is back with a display of all-round brilliance
Broad stakes claim to move back up order for Ashes this winter
Sunday 29 August 2010
This time last year Stuart Broad was the new golden boy of Ashes cricket – slayer of Australia in that unforgettable series decider at The Oval and an all-conquering all-rounder in the making. Twelve months on and, to England's great delight, it is back to square one.
True, there had been a couple of encouraging performances from Broad since that August day in 2009 when he was declared man of the match in south London for taking five wickets during one golden spell of fast bowling and playing a couple of important innings.
Generally, though, the young man nominated by all and sundry to fill at least some of the gap created by Andrew Flintoff's injury-enforced departure has found life a bit of a struggle. Until now, of course. A summer that might have remained memorable for Broad only through being fined by a match referee following an act of petulance in Birmingham suddenly burst into golden life with what could be a career defining century at Lord's.
Everyone has known Broad can bowl since his arrival on the international scene in 2006. But his batting, far from developing at the rate England expected when they promoted him to No 7 on a couple of occasions last summer, had seemed to be in fairly serious decline. Any idea of using Broad as a regular No 7, in order to field a five-man attack, was discounted during the early stages of last winter's tour of South Africa. And even when an extra bowler did make the XI in Bangladesh five months ago, it was Tim Bresnan who found himself following the wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
That was not quite the end of Broad's batting demotion. The 24-year-old has had to get used to walking out at No 9 against Pakistan this summer, after his Nottingham team-mate Graeme Swann, and few people among the full house crowd on Friday would have expected one member of England's eighth wicket pair to detain a rampant visiting attack for too long. Broad, though, does have a bit of form when it comes to defying the odds. Last summer, against Australia, he blazed 61 at Headingley, and while that knock only delayed an inevitable defeat, it did allow England to head to The Oval with a bit of pride restored.
This innings at Lord's, though, was different class, a six hour masterpiece compiled from the wreckage of 102 for seven when half a summer's work, and a series win, were in danger of being thrown away. The only pity was that Broad eventually fell for 169 when five more runs would have seen him post the highest Test score by a No 9.
Whether Broad gets another chance to beat a record held by New Zealander Ian Smith must be doubtful. While No 7 is likely to remain out of reach in Australia this winter with England apparently committed to a four-man attack, No 8 should now be his place for the taking.
"I want to bat as high as I possibly can," said Broad. "All you can do is put runs on the board. But I think it's good that we've got that rivalry in the lower order – certainly Swanny and I are always fighting to be the No 8.
"I've been working hard on my batting in the nets. Graham Gooch has been absolutely fantastic, he's given up his time and worked non-stop with me. He's made my practice really competitive and I've worked on a game plan that is helping me at the minute. I've been asked countless times in my short Test career whether I thought I could score hundreds, and I've always said 'yes'. But it's nice to get that first one and hopefully I can build from here and score many more."
The confidence of having batted like a prince was there for all to see yesterday when Broad returned to his main job of front-line bowler. He does not always swing the new ball, but he did in partnership with Jimmy Anderson to put the skids under Pakistan. Australia may have thought they had seen the best of Broad – but maybe that treat is still to come.
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