Stuart Broad will take the field in search of his 300th Test wicket without his most trusted ally for the first time in more than four years.
It was in June 2011 that Broad last played a Test in which his pace partner, and England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, James Anderson was absent.
But tomorrow, he will have that unfamiliar experience again as he seeks one more wicket to become only the fifth Englishman to reach 300.
Broad first came into an England team eight years ago in which Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Harmison were his frontline colleagues, but in the vast majority of his subsequent 81 Tests he and Anderson have been a reassuring and highly successful constant.
With the Ashes in England’s sights on his home ground at Trent Bridge this week, however, it will be down to Broad to lead a pace attack completed by Steven Finn and – fitness permitting – Mark Wood.
Anderson will be on hand with much-respected advice, at a venue where he has taken more than 50 wickets at under 20 each and was the reason England beat Australia here at their last attempt two years ago.
The management have asked him to stay with the team even though he cannot take part because of the side strain he suffered at Edgbaston.
Broad is thankful for Anderson’s presence, in whatever guise.
“It’s a great decision to have him around this week,” he said.
“Having him around and his feedback – he is integral to the squad.
“What has he got here, 50-odd Test wickets at not very many?
“Jimmy extracts the most out of this wicket of any bowler I have seen, and not just swing.
“In 2013 he was bowling cutters, causing the Aussies problems.”
There is no joy in precedent for Broad, who took 2-154 in a draw at Lord’s against Sri Lanka the last time he was bereft of Anderson.
Back in the present, he is optimistic that Anderson will return for the final Investec Test by which time the Ashes may be in safe keeping again, with England 2-1 up with two to play.
“I am gutted for him that he is missing this Test match, but I genuinely believe he is confident of making the Oval,” added Broad, who knows in the meantime there will be much extra responsibility on his shoulders to convey the information he and Anderson habitually uncover together in the run of play.
“It is important not to apply too much pressure to myself.
“What we do as a partnership is we talk all the time.
“At Edgbaston on the first morning, we tried to swing it for two or three overs and then with those conditions we tried to wobble it and got more success out of that.
“It will be important the bowling unit talk proactively in this game, and that is what I will try and lead.
“That is what Jimmy and I do naturally, so I will have to be a bit more conscious of that this week.”
England are also vowing to address the inconsistency which has seen them follow each of their last three Test wins with instant defeat – a dubious sequence achieved by no other team in the history of the sport.
“We are consistently the most inconsistent side,” said Broad.
“We have to change that.
“There is no point ignoring and pretending it has not happened.
“A braver thing is to talk about it in the changing room and say ‘look, we have to make sure we do something slightly different this week [to what] we have so far this year’.
“As a team, when we are aware of things, we do change it pretty quickly.”
The remedy, England have concluded, is to cast aside all distractions – including, for Broad, the small matter of that 300th wicket.
“It is all about breaking it down into the simplest form as players, so focusing in on our individual jobs on Thursday morning and not thinking about the exterior things like 300 wickets,” he said.
“It is very much ‘get your basics right’, and that’s what our training is going to be focused on and our mentality is going to be – making sure our skills are up to date, because we don’t want minds to drift on to different things.”