Interview: ‘Medium pacer’ Broad set for Ashes battle

Stuart Broad.
Stuart Broad.
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He has been an often combustible presence in all of his Ashes appearances so far and as David Clough reports, Stuart Broad is set to have another big part to play in the Ashes.

Stuart Broad has packed plenty of incident into his 17 Ashes Tests so far.

There has been brilliance, controversy, elation, disappointment and a fair few other outcomes and emotions in between since he first faced Australia in Test cricket, at Cardiff in 2009.

Six years to the day later, he will be back at the same venue impatient to climb aboard the rollercoaster again.

He can only hope for a better output this time, having recorded Ashes debut figures of 1-129 – he did get Michael Clarke, though, for the first of nine occasions – in a contest which had a thrilling conclusion, and of course prefaced England’s 2-1 series victory.

Broad was centre stage for that August triumph at the Oval, obliterating Australia’s top order with first-innings figures of 5-37 – an early demonstration of his match-winning knack when the stakes are high.

Yet there have been troughs too.

Broad has copped flak, and not exclusively from Australians, through a career which has featured barren spells as well as irresistible ones.

It has not always been his impact with ball in hand either that has caught the attention.

Trent Bridge, his home ground since moving from Leicestershire in 2007, bore witness to that in England’s series-opening win there two years ago thanks to a flashpoint few Australians are ever likely to let lie.

They were urged, in fact, by Darren Lehmann to make Broad so uncomfortable in the 2013/14 rematch that he would “cry and go home” for what the Australia coach described at the time as an act of “blatant cheating”.

Broad chose not to walk when given not out, despite apparently edging debutant spinner Ashton Agar to slip via wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s gloves.

Four months later, England’s hosts did not shirk their national duty – one newspaper in Brisbane choosing to make its disdain obvious by refusing to refer to Broad by name in the first Test at the Gabba, instead describing the actions only of “the 27-year-old medium-pacer”.

Broad was, and still is, a bit quicker than that and, albeit in England’s first defeat of their 5-0 whitewash, responded by taking 6-81 in Australia’s first innings.

Revelling in the moment, he picked up a stray copy of the newspaper on his way into the close-of-play press conference and placed it on the desk in front of him as he took questions.

In one response, attempting to deflect the impact on him of boorish crowd behaviour, he ventured that England were the “silent assassins” of the series.

It did not take long for that remark to backfire, and by the end of the tour Broad was alone as an Englishman who had remotely played to his potential, with 21 wickets at well under 28 each.

He could not stem the tide, though, and so it is he finds himself again having to talk a good game on behalf of a much-changed England side bidding this summer to put 2013/14 well and truly behind them.

Broad acknowledges Australia will arrive in confident mood after their 2-0 dismissal of West Indies last month, but he sets plenty of store too in three successive home Ashes series wins for England.

“Australia are in fantastic form, but we also have to remember that our record in England is really good,” said the Nottinghamshire bowler, whose fourth-best figures of his career – 7-84 – in the first innings against Yorkshire at Headingley this week, proved in vain.

“Australia haven’t won an Ashes series in England since 2001, which is quite a long time, so we have to realise our strengths.

“We can’t fear the Australians; we can’t build the Australians up to be something that they are not.

“We have to go into the Ashes Series with a lot of belief that we can win.”

It was a Broad special – perhaps his most memorable performance of all – that sent the Australians home with another defeat in 2013.

His career-best match figures of 11-121 at Chester-le-Street gave England an unassailable 3-1 lead and ensured the Ashes were retained with a match to spare.

He will begin the mission to regain the urn after a mini-sabbatical, left out of the England team which played so well to win a wonderfully entertaining one-day international series against New Zealand.

But as he celebrates his 29th birthday this week back in county championship action with Nottinghamshire against Yorkshire, Broad insists England can take collective heart too after contributing much to the exciting cricket also played in 
the Test series shared 1-1 with 
the Kiwis at the start of this summer.

“The players will be keen to continue that sort of front-foot cricket,” he said.

“It’s exciting to watch, exciting to play, and if we do that, I think the Ashes Series will be a special one to watch.

“Alastair Cook has come back into some amazing form, (there is) Joe Root in the middle, and obviously we have got some good bowlers.

“I think if we perform to the best of our ability we will be right up there.”

Broad has had his setbacks in Australia – even in England’s historically overdue 2010/11 win there, he was out injured after the second Test and had to watch on as his nation recorded a famous win.

But at home against the old enemy, he has tasted only success – and is clearly ready for more.