Archive for the ‘stuart broad’ Category

Broadside brings blood at the Gabbatoir

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Well, it was bound to happen, wasn’t it? Speak of the devil, and he appears. Call Stuart Broad a “27-year-old medium pacer” and he takes five wickets.

Tempting fate? Best not to. Schadenfreude? Perhaps just a smidgen. Childish the Courier-Mail’s antics may have been – in a “let’s just ignore him but devote a full front page to him” kind of way, but it was pretty amusing, and to be fair Broad, with his at-times pompous air of self-importance, brings a lot of it on himself (his scathing passing of judgement back in the summer on what constituted “a true England fan” when someone on Twitter dared criticise England’s soporific batting was especially irritating).

But the man can bowl, and yesterday took five wickets quicker than you can say “the Aussies will be a much tougher prospect at home”. That prediction could yet turn out to be true – bitter experience has taught never to assume anything until England have batted – but the Australian batting had the same jerry-built, threadbare feel to it that it had back in England, despite all of Michael Clarke’s bullish talk of a more settled team, a team that picked itself, lessons learned, and all the stuff you’re supposed to say when fronting up to your country’s media on the back of nine Tests without a win.

The wickets of Chris Rogers and Shane Watson bookended the morning session, with the latter likely proving the most disastrous to Australia’s search for a respectable total on an excellent batting wicket, but it was the scalp of Michael Clarke that should worry the home-side the most – all of that work in the nets, practising against the short ball, only to have Broad fire one into his ribs: the Australian captain fended it to short-leg with all the spinal flexibility of a brick smokestack. The wickets of Dave Warner and Mitchell Johnson rounded out Broad’s five; when he’s on a roll – whether on Twitter or the field of play – there is no stopping him.

England’s other bowlers acquitted themselves well, too. A muscle-bound Chris Tremlett, resembling another structure also made of brick, was preferred to Steven Finn for the role of third seamer, and while he has a way yet to go to recall the glory days of 2010-11 after a long injury layoff, he too bowled with conviction and control and was rewarded with the wicket of a potentially destructive Steve Smith. Jimmy Anderson, in his usual default mode of menacing accuracy, deserved more than two wickets.

So far, it’s like Australia never left England. The problems they had there are still in evidence. That they’re having them at a ground where they were expected to prosper – the last time Australia lost here was twenty-five years ago – is even more sobering.

Given that being a target for derision in the Aussie press seems to act as some kind of reverse jinx (see also the media’s reaction to Michael Clarke being made captain in 2010) Kevin Pietersen must now be licking his lips as he contemplates batting on the second day, given he too has been a target for similar nonsense in the papers before they decided to turn their attention to Broad.

Thursday, though, belonged to the Man With No Name. The wicket was good, the batting (Haddin and Johnson’s partnership of 114 aside) was bad, and right now the chances of the home side turning the tables on the Poms look downright ugly.

Durham destruction

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Ashes retained, and now series won.

It’s amazing, how a match can turn on its head.

Australia went to tea on the fourth day of the Durham Test, sitting pretty on 120-1, the match for the taking and with it a salvaging of some pride. Only 179 runs away. Chris Rogers had been the man to go, edging Swann to slip for 49 runs that seemed a continuation of the quietly-resolute 110 he’d made in the first innings. Khawaja was new to the crease, but David Warner’s resurrection from panto villain to Aussie hero was nearing fruition with 57 runs next to his name. The new ball, a spring-loaded hand grenade in Ryan Harris’s hands in the morning, seemed as dangerous as a week-old jam donut for England’s seamers.

By 7:41 that evening, Australia were all out for 224. It was one of those what-the-hell-happened sessions of insanity, where panic and cluelessness in equal measure grip a side by the throat and you couldn’t help but think back to that awful collapse at Lord’s. All those series what-ifs, where Australia have reminded everyone they’re not an easy touch, and Durham was the best opportunity they had of winning, with events entirely in their hands, unencumbered by time restrictions, or the vagaries of the weather: just 299 runs needed and the cool heads and straight bats required to hunt that total down.

A couple of posts ago I wrote that the funeral orations for the demise of Australian cricket may have been slightly premature, and mentioned that they were unlikely to sink to the levels the West Indies did in their post-nineties plunge, but Australia’s collapse at Durham reminded me of something we’ve become used to seeing from the Windies – a team that’s now so used to losing, it freezes when it finds itself in a position from which it can win.

Take nothing away from England, though – whatever was said during that tea-time war conference over protein bars and energy drinks, it worked. Khawaja fell to Swann soon after the break, but it was Tim Bresnan who started the procession of batsmen back to the pavilion with the wicket of Warner. it was one hell of a ball: full, angled across the batsman, seaming away and taking the edge through to Prior. The best, though – or worst, from an Australian perspective – was yet to come.

I’m not sure whether Stuart Broad’s inspired spell, which had roughly the same effect on Australia’s innings as a tropical storm on a trailer park, was one of the greatest of modern times or an achievement of such magnitude that it just serves to throw those days on which he bowls wide, ineffectual dross into even starker relief. I’ll settle for the former for the time being, because however you want to define that elusive “zone” that sportsmen aspire to, that makes them superhuman in the eyes of us more earthbound mortals, Stuart Broad was not only in it, but he had made himself at home, rearranged the furniture and signed a nine-over five-wickets-for-22-runs lease, with Michael Clarke’s scalp as down-payment. Clarke can count himself unlucky to have been the recipient of two best-of-series, destined-for-YouTube, unplayable deliveries – the other, of course, being the thunderbolt sent down by Jimmy Anderson at Trent Bridge.

Broad was deservedly Man of the Match for that performance, but Ian Bell deserves his share of the laurels as well. Even with 17 Test centuries to his name before this series, there have always been niggling doubts about his “ticker”, his appetite for a fight, when his side are up against it and tough runs are required. His three centuries this series have set England back on an even keel when the early loss of their top three has seen them listing to starboard. His partnership with Pietersen was wonderful to watch, particularly with memories of the latter’s magnificent Old Trafford knock still fresh in the memory. If Pietersen is Wagner – batsmanship as bombastic spectacle, all blaring brass and thundering timpani – Bell is a Haydn string quartet, with those legato cover-drives and glissando deflections to third man. Elegant salon cricket at one end, Valkyries and Götterdämmerung at the other.

Bell’s come a long way from his days as Shane Warne’s whipping boy. We may have laughed along with the “Sherminator” jibes at the time, but it looks like the grit was there after all; it’s only now we are seeing the pearl it’s become, and admiring its lustre.

Speaking of Warne, I enjoy his punditry enormously (and his bowling masterclass on Sky was a treat), but his insistent, niggling criticism of Cook’s captaincy on the last day – and in a subsequent article for the Telegraph – was the only bum note in an otherwise enjoyable commentary stint. A crafty attempt to undermine the opposition it may have been, but it also had the slightly desperate tang of sour grapes. I know that, ontologically speaking, true objectivity is impossible, and even with Warne on board the Sky team are still head and shoulders above their Channel Nine counterparts in terms of even-handedness, but it was still a bit much. It’s true that Cook may come off the poorer when compared to the more gung-ho, gut-feel captaincy of Clarke, but the ready-made riposte that it is England who have not only retained the urn but won the series seems hardly worth mentioning.

It’d be remiss of me, though, not to mention two notable performances for Australia. It’s a shame that Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers were on the losing side – how is Ryan Harris even still upright after three consecutive Tests? – but Harris’s career-best 7-117 in the second innings, and Rogers’ redoubtable maiden Test century on the second day were in the end all for nothing. They were let down by their team, and it will have hurt like hell. The challenge at the Oval on Wednesday will be to distil that disappointment into renewed determination. They will need to come out angry, and come out swinging. Pride ain’t much to play for, but it’s still something.

Broad blitzkrieg blows New Zealand away

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

You have to feel for Tim Southee. You lead your team from the field an hour before lunch on the the fourth day, having bowled your side to a chance of victory and gotten your name on the fabled Lord’s honours board with your fourth five-wicket haul in Tests and match figures of 10-108. You are only the second player in history to have taken ten wickets in a match at Lord’s for New Zealand. England have crashed from 180-6 overnight to 213 all out. The result isn’t a foregone conclusion – with 239 needed, your team will still have to achieve the third highest fourth-innings run-chase at this ground – but victory is so close now, you can taste it.

A little under two hours of play later and it’s all over, your side incredibly and ignominiously vanquished by 170 runs and your bowling overshadowed by Stuart Broad’s dramatic return to form – 7 wickets at the cost of only 44 runs in just 11 overs – after a lacklustre performance on Friday in which it never seemed to twig that bowling short and wide was doing nothing but feeding run-hungry batsmen. How you must wish that particular penny never dropped. You could be forgiven for wondering what the hell just happened.

Southee steams in at Lord's

Southee steams in at Lord’s

Ah, cricket. Test cricket, more precisely. While those who’d paid £60 for a ticket shivered in the stands on a day which saw more cloud than sun, at least the thought that it was miles away from the IPL and its spot-fixing and assorted histrionics could be guaranteed to provide a little warmth; otherwise Day 1 had precious little going for it. Thursday was moribund batting of the dullest kind, self-preservation at its most dour as England, perhaps mindful of underestimating New Zealand the last time round, seemed to regard any run rate faster than a plodding two an over as the height of extravagant negligence, akin to leaving a toddler alone for a fortnight with a supply of oven chips and Haribo while the parents take off for Ibiza. This is what the fear of failure does to you; it wasn’t just the spectators who were frozen.

It was forecast to be a rain affected draw, but only 10 overs were lost on Thursday; a drizzly end to a day that fizzled out when it had never really got going. Expectations for the rest of the match were for more of the same. How wrong we all were.

Each day after that featured a collapse of wickets as the narrative speeded up considerably, giving us episodes of drama and achievement, and records too, as James Anderson found himself only the fourth Englishman to reach 300 Test wickets, just reward for a bowler who is arguably yet to reach his peak. Amongst the clatter of timbers and the wafts to slip there were fine instances of youthful maturity too – Joe Root temporarily steadied the ship with Jonathan Trott in a partnership of 123 and while he failed to get his name on the board this time, bowled by Tim Southee for 71, that he will do so in the future seems a likelihood close to certainty. New Zealand’s Root equivalent, Kane Williamson, showed the type of cool-headed watchfulness familiar to those who’ve seen him already in county cricket. That he is his country’s vice captain shows that New Zealand Cricket are already thinking along the same lines as England are with Joe Root in planning for the future.

Sunday, though, belonged to Stuart Broad. A bowler who some love to hate, who irritates with his self of sense-entitlement, his dogged insistence on following his own wrong-headed strategies and his petulant confrontations with umpires, he’s blown hot and cold over the last couple of years when it comes to his wicket-taking effectiveness. On Sunday, though, he was scorching: you could have been forgiven if you saw curls of smoke rising up from the ripped-up ruin of Bruce Martin’s wicket –  stump, camera and all wrenched violently out of the ground by an unplayable delivery.

Like a hurricane, Stuart Broad left New Zealand in ruins. The rebuilding will have to be quick. Daniel Vettori, who played his last Test ten months ago, has recovered from a troublesome Achilles injury and has been called up to replace the injured Bruce Martin. England have already named an unchanged squad for Headingley.

That Broad is back to his best constitutes the laying of good foundations for the start of England’s Ashes defence in June. As far as New Zealand goes, however, they have some serious shoring up to do before their next encounter with Cyclone Stuart on Friday.

England World T20 champions – surely some mistake

Monday, June 27th, 2011

England were disciplined, relentless, showed no mercy and dismantled their opposition.

Then the blokes came on.

The England women played before the men as a first course to the main attraction, but in terms of performance and results their billing could just as well have been reversed.

Granted, this was not quite the same team that lifted the trophy at the ICC World Twenty20 final in Barbados last year, with four of the 2010 team being, at the time of writing, absent from the game through injury, retirement, omission in the case of the then-captain Collingwood and, sadly, depression in the case of Michael Yardy.

But given both of England’s openers (including 2010 Man of the Match Craig Kieswetter) were out by the end of the third over and with only 12 runs on the board, and the only standout period being the 83-run partnership between Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan, you could be fooled into thinking 2010 was all some kind of bizarre error.

England deserve all the plaudits showered upon them as a Test side (the listlessness of the Tests just gone aside) but in the shorter forms of the game they still veer between the just-about-competent and the diabolically useless, with little in between.

You knew this match had the potential to go very wrong indeed from the moment it was divulged at the toss that Ian Bell would not be playing. When asked to explain this decision, England’s new T20 captain Stuart Broad made some sounds that may have resembled words, but they were so devoid of anything beyond evasive flannel I can’t remember a single damn thing he said.

I do remember what Broad said at the end of the match, when he was interviewed as the losing captain, but I’ll get to that in a bit, when you too, dear reader, can join me in frothing at the mouth in disbelief at the utter non-logic of it all.

We’re not in Barbados any more, Toto.

Anyway, Kieswetter and Lumb slogged their way ignominiously out of the reckoning as far as any meaningful contribution to this match was concerned, and after Kevin Pietersen departed, having finally laid our minds at rest that his horror trot could be over – let’s not mention the fact that Sanath Jayasuriya, who took his wicket, bowls left-arm spin – only one boundary was scored in the last 9 overs.

Samit Patel may have lost (some) weight but it’s not made him any quicker, as he was involved in an embarrassing run-out. Perhaps he’d have been less tardy making it back to his crease if there had been a pie placed on it.

Ravi Bopara dawdled nervously, Luke Wright’s continued inclusion continues to strike me as nothing other than Wrong, and that was all she wrote as England could manage only 136-9.

As only one world-class partnership came to the party for England, so it took the world-class Sri Lankan duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to take their side to victory with 97 runs between them. Theirs was a partnership of unruffled, assured excellence. They are two of the world’s best Test batsmen, and they played as such, showing that particular ability common to all true greats to pace their innings according to the demands of the format – a skill that seems beyond many of their England counterparts.

If Morgan and Pietersen were the thoroughbreds to the glue-factory rejects that comprised the rest of England’s batting, the bowling proved to be similarly in need of direction, with Jade Dernbach the only man to take a wicket (Jayasuriya, whose politically engineered inclusion in this team is a kick in the teeth for everything that cricket, and indeed democracy, stands for).

Dernbach – 6 feet 2, hair gel, body art – is highly regarded by England bowling coach David Saker. A seamer whose slower ball is the most effective weapon in his armoury, he alone gave the Sri Lankan batsmen pause on their otherwise inexorable march to victory.

It is hard, and perhaps slightly unfair, to judge Stuart Broad on his first outing as captain. But considering Eoin Morgan seemed to be doing much of the field-placing during the latter overs of the game as Broad fielded on the boundary, it may turn out to be a short-lived appointment.

Of course, you could also say Broad really didn’t have a heck of a lot to work with. Considering neither Patel or Bopara made any convincing argument to justify their recall to England colours, are we to assume that T20 is nothing but a training ground in which to blood new or inexperienced players and that the result of the match is worth gambling on for that reason? How much do England really care about T20 anyway? A mostly domestic phenomenon, there are precious few T20 internationals before the next World Cup in September 2012, and they looked a pale shadow of the unit that won in 2010.

You could also say: play your best team. Jayawardene and Sangakkara are prime examples of Test virtuosos who can adapt their games. Ian Bell is in superb form at the moment. He is averaging 331 in Tests this summer.

When asked again, pointedly, after the match was over why Bell had not played, Broad mentioned Bopara as giving them another bowling option (which makes Luke Wright’s selection even more baffling). “But I’m sure he [Bell] will be training hard and fighting to get into the team.”

Because, apparently, scoring a veritable shit-ton of runs just doesn’t seem to be enough.


The madness begins afresh tomorrow, when Alastair Cook will take the reins in an effort not to repeat the 5-0 hammering England sustained the last time these two sides met in an ODI series in England.

With any luck, this time the team selection might make slightly more sense.

Split captaincy for short-of-options England

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Paul Collingwood is “very disappointed” at being stripped of the Twenty20 captaincy.

Stuart Broad, his replacement, has said, “It’s a huge privilege to be named England Twenty20 captain and form part of a leadership team that I’ve no doubt will work well together with a great deal of synergy,” craftily using management-speak pablum to repeat himself in the same sentence.

Alastair Cook, England’s new ODI captain, looked like a Chinese water deer in the sights of one of his own shotguns as he proffered some flannel about how his one-day form for Essex has improved even though he hasn’t been a part of England’s one-day side “for a while” – not since March 2010, to be exact.

One can understand Andrew Strauss relinquishing the One Day captaincy and retiring from this form of the game. He, along with Andy Flower, have been the prime movers in England’s recent Ashes success but both men have recognized the need to pace themselves. There is the suggestion that Flower, in extending his coaching contract with England, will be able to sit out selected tours, and Strauss, who will be 38 at the time of the next World Cup, understandably wishes to concentrate on Test cricket and the captaincy job he has performed so admirably.

The message today’s split-captaincy announcements seem to send out is that, with the Test team settled, the 2015 World Cup is now the next item on England’s agenda.

The only problem is, neither of these captaincy appointments is ideal and smack of a makeshift approach because of a lack of other options.

Cook’s form in Test cricket is unquestioned. But for a man who has played only 3 ODIs in the last two and a half years to not only be shoehorned into the team but also given the captaincy sounds like desperation. It suggests that since Cook is Test captain-in-waiting he was the only option.

He may very well turn out to be effective in the opening position Strauss has now vacated – I doubt he will perform any worse than Matt Prior did – but leading the team to victory in one series against Bangladesh hardly suggests a CV with any great depth in the captaincy department.

I have bigger problems with Stuart Broad as England’s new Twenty20 captain.

Cook may have captained England in five matches already; Broad does not even have that.

At the start of today’s press conference, England managing director Hugh Morris referred to Broad’s “leadership credentials”. What those are, exactly, remains unexplained. Broad, while being of undeniable value to an England team in terms of his bowling, will hardly be of much use to his country if he is watching from the sidelines because he has clashed heads with officialdom.

Broad, while earning plaudits for his bowling and batting in the series against Pakistan last year, won himself rather fewer fans with his on-field behaviour, and there were many, myself included, who believed the penalty levied against him for petulantly hurling the ball at Zulqarnain Haider should have been considerably stiffer.

Broad says he has “learned from that” and wants to “set a good example and play the game in the right way,” but I am yet to be convinced.

I’m always wary when it comes to setting up sportsmen as paragons of what examples to the young should be, but it’s the idea that the England management have confused petulance with competitiveness – and worse, leadership potential – that worries me.

Personally, I’d like to have seen Kevin Pietersen given another shot at captaincy – in either format – but despite what KP might say regarding being in large part responsible for England’s renaissance after the removal of Peter Moores (and I’d be inclined to agree with him), the fact that Andy Flower was also in his sights no doubt remains a black mark against him.

So now, England will take on this summer’s visitors Sri Lanka and India with two inexperienced captains, a new ODI opening partnership and a bowler-captain who is rightly praised for his ability to take wickets but not for his maturity or anything that would suggest statesmanship or tactical nous.

This has been brought about because the England management have decided there are no other options: hardly a ringing endorsement for the two new incumbents.

Andy Flower has admitted the appointment of three captains is a gamble – “over the next few years we will see if that works or not,” and referred to it as “the most effective use of our resources”.

Such as they are.