How good was Stuart Broad at Leeds on Day 1? He was simply fantastic.….

“Perhaps England have to make a bold call this week at Headingley and consider leaving out one of James Anderson or Stuart Broad,” former England skipper, Michael Vaughan, wrote in The Telegraph.

Despite Vaughan’s tendency to go wild with suggestions, this nail somehow hit near the coffin. Anderson, of course, has a great record to boast of in the last few months despite England’s pathetic performances overseas and Vaughan must well have turned a blind eye to the feats of the Lancashire seamer, much like he did as a skipper. But in Broad’s case, the former captain had a point, at least statistically.

Since 2017, Broad’s 16 Tests had yielded 46 wickets at an average of 33.02 and strike rate of 71.1, the worst among the top 15 wicket-takers in this time period. The tall, lanky seamer was apparently losing foothold to someone like Mark Wood or Chris Woakes but England tend to give multiple chances at least to their bowlers and to break the Anderson – Broad pair would be more painful for them than finding a 14th opening partner for Alastair Cook since Andrew Strauss.

Despite the record, Broad played at Lord’s and was among the best of England seamers on display. This makes Vaughan’s calls somewhat moot but amidst England’s embarrassing loss to Pakistan, it is easy to forget that the actual problem lies in the batting and fielding. The slew of dropped catches could well have played a role in minimising the impact of Broad and Anderson.

Yet, under cloudy skies at Headingley, one could almost imagine the duo licking their lips as Pakistan skipper won the toss and put his side in to bat. It seemed suicidal although he was hoping his batsmen had the tenacity and resolve to play out the first two hours. Any captain at this level ought to believe in his batsmen and Sarfraz was at no fault for the debacle that unfolded in the next few hours.

Stuart Broad, perhaps inspired by Vaughan’s dig at him, bowled full, fuller than ever. The ball spit and moved about venomously as Pakistan batsmen appeared clueless against Broad’s craftsmanship. That Anderson was a tad off-colour saved them a few blushes but it was the Broad-show all along.

England’s impotence on flat tracks was stamped with a rubber seal on their recent overseas adventures but at home, they were bullies with the ball. At Lord’s, it somehow didn’t click right but Headingley day one was what England cricket in England was all about.

Before the Test there were rumours of Joe Root sitting Broad down for a harsh talk and whatever that was, the seamer seemed pretty miffed as he ripped through Pakistan’s top order with a remarkable change in the length of attack. We had analysed during the first Test how England’s bowlers were missing the right length to attack as against Amir and Abbas but Broad led the way on day 1 of the second Test in an aggressive opening spell.

His two-wicket burst was fraught with edges and play and misses and according to CricViz, he generated his greatest movement through the air for close to three years. His first over was a bag full of peaches, nearly trapping Imam-ul-Haq leg before wicket and then dismissing him three balls later with a wide, full one.

The length which the England seamer hit the fullest he had ever bowled with the brand new cherry in hand in England according to CricViz which estimates 67% of his balls were full. More than a quarter of them led to play and misses.

There is a thing about Stuart Broad which most International teams know by now. When he starts to find his rhythm he is an impossible bowler to get away. Ask Australia. Or South Africa. Here he had a mental switch turned on much earlier. Whether it was Vaughan’s calls or Root’s talk, we might never know but whatever it was, it pumped him up.

Before Azhar Ali could settle down to fight a few blues, Broad had bowled a near-perfect outswinger to trap the skipper in front. The shape and angle of the ball meant Ali always had to play at it but it also meant he had little chance of getting behind it.

He was so good that Root kept him on for seven overs upfront, a spell of 7-3-14-2, one which reeked of aggression and wickets. That Pakistan lost just two to Broad in this spell was a credit to their batting, if anything. That Anderson bowled just 27% full, as against Broad’s 67%, shows how well the latter had adjusted to the requirements of the track.

He added a third as he beat Usman Salahuddin, the debutant’s bat, with another full ball, swinging into the batsman and although all three of England’s seamers finished the day with three wickets apiece, the day belonged to Broad, and rightly so. He had started the hunt and set the benchmark quite high. With a pumped-up Broad, England’s fears of losing the series could well be misplaced after all. And as for Vaughan, he has quite a few words to put out there.

 

 

 

Facebook Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.