When England were being roughly treated in Sri Lanka late last year, one beacon of light followed them everywhere. All right, they might have to sack the captain, Alastair Cook, but there was something else that would make everything all right come the World Cup.
Jimmy and Stuart would be back. Anderson and Broad, that is, long-time torch bearers of the England attack, veteran campaigners, a wise, incisive new-ball partnership. So far, they have each taken two wickets, gone at more than six runs an over – which is the new convention – and utterly defied their billing.
They were as innocuous as each other against Sri Lanka on Sunday when England’s opponents became the latest to marmalise them. It has been all the more astonishing to watch because of their experience and just how much Anderson and Broad have achieved for England. In the not so long ago, when the side were winning things (matches, series, trophies), they were always there.
Broad appeared sanguine enough about the team’s prospects on Tuesday but he is also having to cope with a debilitating condition, caused by playing the game. Since being hit square on the nose by a Varun Aaron bouncer at Old Trafford last year, he is suffering from recurring nightmares.
“I get nightmares still and I wake up thinking I have been hit in the face by a ball, so even when I get tired, I see balls flying at me,” he said. It seems clearly to have affected his batting, which he conceded.
“Potentially, but I am working with the psychologist on focusing about my process rather than the other stuff.
“It probably has affected me more, like my jaw clicks from it, if I have two glasses of wine I have black eyes so it probably has affected me. So after my knee operation I woke up almost in a nightmare thinking ‘what happened there?’... feeling as though I had been hit when I hadn’t been. It was a decent blow.”
Dealing with such effects can hardly have helped Broad’s bowling performances in this tournament.
Broad also missed months of cricket leading up to the World Cup with a knee injury but is making no suggestion at all that his bowling has been affected by that. He claims he and Anderson are simply not firing. “Neither of us have got the results we want but I also know I am the sort of bowler that can have a lean patch and then I get a handful,” Broad said on Tuesday, as the team settled into life here in Adelaide. “Touch wood, there are handfuls coming our way in the next few games.
“I have been guilty myself of looking too much at oppositions and stuff. I am just going to look at myself. I know I have got a good bouncer, I need to use it. A lot of the wickets around the World Cup have come from fuller balls, [Mitchell] Starc, [Tim] Southee. Come Monday [against Bangladesh], I will probably look to use my bouncer and extract a bit of swing from a fuller length.”
England’s failures have been so frequent that every match from now on is a crunch match. Lose either to Bangladesh or Afghanistan later next week, and they will be leaving without reaching the quarter-finals. Win them both and England appear to believe that anything is still possible.
The entire seam attack lost the plot against Sri Lanka – Anderson, Broad, Steve Finn and Chris Woakes – offering up balls that invited to be hit for four. Bangladesh would plunder such gifts similarly. “After the Sri Lanka match, it was the bowlers being upset with the bowlers really,” Broad said. “It wasn’t a shouting match but we were all sitting around, we knew we had let the team down a bit because we had made it too easy for them to chase.
“None of the batsmen were like ‘what have you bowled that for?’ because we dropped chances as well. We’re all brave enough and old enough to know we didn’t bowl as well as we could have done but also that we have got to start taking our chances as well.”
The team appear to be blissfully unaware of the criticism they are receiving at home, which is in danger of turning to indifference. That is probably just as well. Broad insisted that this is the nicest bunch of blokes he has played with in an England team. Maybe they need a bit more of what is known hereabouts as mongrel.
“It is the way of the world. We are losing games. If we had won on Sunday, everyone would have been saying they’ve got a chance in this World Cup. It is the way our country works. You just go with the flow.
“It’s like the rugby, beat Wales and we have a chance of winning the World Cup, lose to Ireland and no chance. We know as players that if you win a game you have a chance. You can’t get too caught up in that kind of thing.”Reuse content