Stuart Broad revealed a “distraught” James Anderson apologised to his England team-mates after pulling up injured on the first morning of the Ashes.
Anderson managed just four overs on day one of the hotly-anticipated series against Australia before experiencing tightness in his right calf and did not return to the field after being sent for a scan during the lunch break.
Without their record wicket-taker England still managed to dismiss the tourists for 284 at Edgbaston, Broad taking over as sole figurehead to claim 5-86.
One thing’s for sure, that atmosphere was lively. It was loud. Certainly in my top 15.Stuart Broad
At one stage, with Australia 122-8, it looked like the 37-year-old would not even be missed but Steve Smith’s brilliant, backs-to-the-wall 144 guided his side back from the brink.
“He is down, he’s frustrated...he actually came and said sorry to all the bowlers, not that he’s got anything to be sorry for,” said Broad, of his long-time partner.
“He is distraught he couldn’t be out there today. He feels like he’s let the bowling group down but he hasn’t.
“Niggles are a part of fast bowling, but he’s down in the dumps as you’d expect.”
England do not yet have a clear prognosis on Anderson, who missed last week’s Ireland Test with an existing calf injury, but will have surely steeled themselves for the possibility of bad news.
“I don’t know what the next steps are, the scan could show it’s not much and he could be able to bowl in the second innings or it could show something and it’s a couple of weeks,” added Broad.
Broad’s haul not only made him just the eighth Englishman to reach 100 Ashes wickets, it also went down particularly well with a raucous Edgbaston crowd.
He dismissed each of Australia’s returning ‘Sandpaper trio’ of ball-tamperers – Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft –who were given a rough ride all day by a simmering Hollies Stand.
Smith dealt with the pressure cooker rather better than his colleagues, who both succumbed for single figures, but the sound and fury from the England supporters drew a wry response from Broad. Clearly noting Australia captain Tim Paine’s pre-match claim that he could “name 15” more intimidating venues, the 128-Test veteran said: “One thing’s for sure, that atmosphere was lively. It was loud.
“Certainly in my top 15.
“There was a time as players we were like ‘wow’. Having gone through a bit of stick myself in Australia...it’s part of being a professional sportsman.
“Footballers get it all the time but it’s a bit unexpected sometimes in cricket. Smith seemed to deal with it OK.”
With Anderson’s ongoing role up in the air, Broad is set to be a crucial figure over the next four days – something he will never shy away from.
“I do enjoy added responsibility,” he said.
“Rooty came to us at lunch and said Jimmy wasn’t going to bowl again today, that he might ask quite a lot of us today. He said ‘put everything on the line today and we’ll reassess tomorrow’.
“When your captain asks you that sort of thing...it’s Ashes cricket...you want the ball, every ball.
“I’m pretty exhausted, I’d forgotten how nerve-wracking and tense Ashes cricket is, but after losing the toss and bowling you’d take bowling a team out for less than 300 every day of the week.”
Smith was the man of the day, staring down England’s depleted attack and a hostile Edgbaston crowd as his superb century single-handedly rescued Australia on the opening day of the 2019 Ashes.
The first Specsavers Test would have kicked off with England seemingly well in the box seat had Smith not hit a brilliant 144, more than half of his team’s 284 all out and a distant dream after they limped to 122-8.
Sixteen months after watching their careers collapse in disgrace following the sandpaper scandal Smith, Warner and Bancroft all returned to boos, jeers and brickbats from the notoriously raucous Birmingham crowd.
There was an element of pantomime after Australia won the toss and opted to bat, Warner and Bancroft walking to the crease to a predictable volley, plus a chorus of “cheats, cheats, cheats” from the Hollies Stand. Warner almost gave his detractors the ultimate satisfaction of a golden duck when he nicked Broad’s loosener down leg, but the seamer’s appeal fell on deaf ears – the first in a litany of incorrect decisions from umpires Joel Wilson and Aleem Dar.
Matthew Wade, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins all fell lbw to different bowlers – Woakes, Broad and Ben Stokes. But it was captain Tim Paine who was guilty of the most irresponsible stroke, pulling Broad’s short ball powerlessly to Rory Burns in the deep.
In the absence of Anderson, and with Broad standing tall, Woakes added 3-58 on an otherwise impressive opening day for England.
Indeed, both hauls would have been prettier still had Smith not coaxed stands worth 162 out of tailenders Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon. Joy, relief and bloodymindedness were etched across Smith’s face as he celebrated his 24th Test hundred, and a ninth against England, before he cut loose late in the day to punish a tiring attack.
After he was finally toppled by Broad, Burns and Jason Roy were left to face two awkward overs at the close but held their nerve to reach 10 without loss.