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Stuart Broad receives a guard of honour from the Australian players as he takes to the field for the start of the day's play.

Stuart Broad receives a guard of honour from the Australian players as he takes to the field for the start of the day's play. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images/Reuters

 

 

THE ASHES | SIMON WILDE

Stuart Broad: New ball, full house: departing hero will be in his element

Simon Wilde

Sunday July 30 2023, 8.30am, The Sunday Times

 

Stuart Broad: New ball, full house: departing hero will be in his element (thetimes.co.uk)

 

So Stuart Broad is retiring from cricket on the final day of a must-win Test against Australia with a job to be done with the ball and a full house guaranteed. Who would have thought he would choose such a time?

Broad has always been at his best when performing on the biggest stage his sport offers, hence his record-breaking number of wickets in Ashes Tests by an England bowler, hence his habit of waving his arms towards the terraces to rev up a crowd. He needs an audience to thrive. He will have one now.

Some 18 months ago, Broad feared that his England career had been quietly ended with his non-selection for a tour of the West Indies, so getting himself into such a position as this, where “The Big Farewell” became an option, made it all the more likely that he was not going to pass up the chance. He is 37 years old for heaven’s sake.

 

Broad will be raring to get stuck into Warner, his old nemesis, one last time this morning

Broad will be raring to get stuck into Warner, his old nemesis, one last time this morning

ANDREW BOYERS/ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS

 

He first came to the fore when he bowled out Australia at the Oval in 2009 as a youngster with lank hair — he had yet to discover the advantages of a bandana — and has not missed a home Ashes Test since. Once he experienced the magic of such an occasion — he took five for 38 that day — he was motivated to keep seeking repeats and has managed it a remarkable number of times. He has never failed to take at least 20 wickets in every home Ashes he has played.3

 

Broad must rank as one of the greatest Test-match bowlers the game has ever seen. That he achieved such stature was by no means a given. As a youngster he started as a batsman, only converting to bowling fast after he shot up to about 6ft 6in. His height was an asset, of course, but his technique was not anything out of the ordinary. He had been an international cricketer for just over a year when Yuvraj Singh hit him for six sixes in an over in a T20 match.

 

He achieved greatness through a number of things — chiefly intelligence, supreme fitness and an unwavering desire to learn new tricks. He never let his game stand still. At the start of this summer he was talking about a new delivery he thought might be useful against Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne and he has so far dismissed both of them twice in the series. Fourteen of his 20 wickets are those of top-order batsmen.

More than most, he has been a tactical bowler, someone who used angles to pick at the threads of a batsman’s technique, and tinkers with grips and seam positions to find ways to make a ball talk in different ways. If a ball was capable of seam or swing, however slight, he would try to exploit it. He and James Anderson have been masters at knowing how to “manage” a ball.

 

Broad during his legendary spell at Trent Bridge in 2015

Broad during his legendary spell at Trent Bridge in 2015

JON SUPER/AP

 

It is worth remembering that when Broad started playing Tests for England in 2007, and more regularly from 2008, the Decision Review System was barely a thing, and it certainly had not started to influence how bowlers went about their work. Nor were right-arm fast bowlers going round the wicket to left-handers as a ploy; if anyone did it, it was more novelty than concerted strategy. Wobble-seam deliveries lay far in the future as well.

 

He taught himself to bowl in the new style at left-handers and became most famous for the dominance he achieved over David Warner, whom he has now accounted for 17 times, with the power yet to add to that tally. Of his 602 Test wickets, 191 are those of left-handers.

What has also served him well is a career-long alliance with Anderson, who was both collaborator and inspiration. Broad said earlier this year: “He [Anderson] is probably the reason I’m still going.” It also helped that Broad was naturally, ferociously competitive, something that always came to the fore during Ashes Tests. The Australians found him hard to take because he was a mirror image of them, restless in the pursuit of victory, intolerable in his appetite for finding marginal gains.

 

Broad celebrates Ashes success in 2015 in the Oval dressing room, where he will end his cricket career

Broad celebrates Ashes success in 2015 in the Oval dressing room, where he will end his cricket career

GARETH COPLEY/GETTY IMAGES

 

He was reviled by them for not walking at Trent Bridge in 2013 when he edged to slip, as though Australians walked as a matter of course. They didn’t like it when he lectured Pat Cummins and Alex Carey about the spirit of cricket after the Jonny Bairstow stumping at Lord’s, particularly when he then annoyed Labuschagne by switching the bails moments before Labuschagne nicked off against Mark Wood on the second day of this game.

 

Broad’s competitive instincts were developed by being born into a sporting family and having a father, Chris, who was himself an Ashes hero — with the bat — in the 1980s. An early season of grade cricket in Australia hardened him further.

Broad was the sort of cricketer Ben Stokes wanted in his team when he took over. Broad, in turn, relished the freewheeling approach Stokes initiated. It challenged him to bowl in a different way, to more attacking lengths and without heed of economy rates. After a first phone-call with Brendon McCullum, the new head coach, Broad said he was “f***ing buzzing”.

 

He was smart enough to know it might not last long; Ollie Robinson, for all his fitness issues, was clearly a threat to his place, though in fact England several times accommodated both of them in the side. Discounting the Pakistan tour, which he missed for paternity leave, Broad was selected for every Test.

 

Under Stokes, Broad has taken 65 wickets, more than anyone else. He has been a champion to the last.

 

 

 

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