The Ashes: Stuart Broad deadly but tourists refuse to give up the ghost

Outstanding morning spell of seam brings rich rewards before Clarke's men regroup in style

Chester-le-street

Billy Cooper, the trumpeter who provides the soundtrack to many an England Test, is an accomplished musician with a keen sense of mischief. So whenever Shane Watson has started a spell of bowling during this match, and when he walked out to bat, he has been accompanied by the theme from the 1984 film Ghostbusters.

It was Watson, you may recall, who was so spooked by his 2005 visit to the Lumley Castle Hotel that overlooks this ground that he chose to share a room with his team-mate Brett Lee rather than spend the night alone in his own. According to local legend, the spirit of Lily Lumley, thrown down a well by two priests for rejecting the Catholic faith, still stalks the building and its grounds.

Yet even with the 14th-century stronghold prominent on the brow of the hill, there was nothing spectral to worry Australia yesterday. The problem for them was the larger-than-life presence of Stuart Broad, who frightened the tourists at least as much as any phantom could have managed.

A demon spell of seam bowling before lunch from the England bowler demonstrated exactly why, despite the grating demeanour, the regular fitness worries and the mercurial form, he remains such an integral member of this team.

In the first three Tests Broad took only six wickets, at 52 runs apiece. Yet he is often asked to produce spells of bowling when the ball is soft and conditions are unhelpful. Broad is not sufficiently consistent to be considered world-class, but when he finds his rhythm he can cause a level of danger to batsmen that few other bowlers can match.

Broad's finest performance in an Ashes match to date remains his burst on the second afternoon at The Oval four years ago. Four key Australian wickets, culminating in a haul of 5 for 37, was the decisive contribution with the ball that enabled England to regain the urn. Though his work yesterday morning did not influence the match in such dramatic fashion, it was just as impressive. These were ideal conditions in which to bowl seam and Broad – running in from the Lumley End, naturally – exploited them wonderfully.

Sometimes Broad seems to forget what type of bowler he is, or he is asked to bowl in a manner that does not always suit his qualities. Although he resisted the temptation to give Broad the short-leg fielder he craved, Alastair Cook realised the bowler was at his best and simply allowed him to get on with his job.

The rewards were immediate. David Warner, promoted to open the innings alongside Chris Rogers, was quickly presented with the batsman's nightmare conundrum: to play or to leave? Warner chose the latter, realised his mistake, but it was too late as the ball crashed into his off stump.

Usman Khawaja fared no better. Both he and Warner have played county cricket – indeed, Warner did so for Durham – and should know the importance of being aware of your off stump when batting in this country. Yet, like Warner, Khawaja appeared to forget this principle.

The stroke looked elegant; the result was ridiculous. Khawaja shaped to allow the ball to pass outside his off stump but was caught in two minds, and international cricket rarely forgives indecision. A flick off the toe of the bat, an easy catch for Matt Prior, and Khawaja was on his way for a duck.

Now Broad was bubbling and bristling, and the batsmen could not have looked more jittery if they had found themselves in a pitch-black corridor in Lumley Castle at the dead of night. Broad hunted them, coaxing just enough movement from the wicket and threatening to strike with every ball.

Not even Michael Clarke, Australia's captain and best batsman, could deny Broad, although it was a foolish shot that gave England's predator his third victim. How strange it was to see Clarke drive loosely at a full delivery outside off stump and offer a simple catch to Cook at first slip.

At that stage it appeared as though Australia had no answer to the bustling Broad. Since the débâcle at Lord's, though, this team have improved considerably. England's 2-0 lead after three matches was sufficient to retain the urn, yet Australia played the better cricket throughout the Third Test at Old Trafford, and they have done so again here.

Broad's spell was magnificent, and he returned from the Finchale End to pick up Watson, but if the trend of the first two days is maintained Australia can win here. And it may be Cook, not Clarke, who is left looking like he has seen a ghost.

Vaughan says drop Hot Spot

The row over Hot Spot took another twist yesterday when it was ridiculed by former England captains Michael Vaughan and Alec Stewart.

Warren Brennan, who designed the thermal-imaging camera that should enable the third umpire to detect thin edges, has called for the removal of protective coating on bats in order for Hot Spot to work as effectively as possible.

Yet Vaughan said bluntly: "I don't think Hot Spot can carry on. He's admitted his system doesn't work when bats have got covering on, and that's not going to stop. With that statement, it has to go."

Stewart added: "I'd suggest he takes his technology back to the nets and improve on it. It's just not good enough."

The Decision Review System will be discussed by cricket officials after this Ashes series.

Tom Collomosse

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