Stuart Broad senses a new beginning is under way for him and his England team-mates as they finally free themselves from the hangover of last winter’s Ashes whitewash.
Broad (3-65) and James Anderson (3-52) had to work especially hard to take six India wickets between them as the tourists closed day three of the third Investec Test on 323-8 in reply to 569-7 declared.
But their deserved success, in batting conditions at the Ageas Bowl, is a prime indication to Broad – after some disappointing showings of late – that England are back on track.
A pep talk with coach Peter Mooores appears to have done the trick for the pace bowler, who cited the return to form here of captain Alastair Cook and a big hundred from Ian Bell as further evidence that the talented core of England’s team is firing again.
“I think maybe the (senior) players have put too much pressure on themselves after what, since the Durham Test (last summer), has been a pretty tough run,” he said.
“Maybe we got a bit uptight.
“Before this Test match, Mooresy came to a few of us and said ‘just go and express yourself – don’t worry about having to take responsibility – just go and play, like it’s your first Test match.
“I think that’s shone through a little bit.”
Cook and Bell, along with another century from newcomer Gary Ballance, of Yorkshire, helped England pile up the runs before the bowlers got to work.
“Cookie and Belly played fantastically with the bat, and Jimmy and I have contributed with the ball,” added Broad.
“Everyone was having a laugh, smiles on their faces, and I think that showed in our cricket.
“We kept the energy up throughout the whole day. We were brilliant.”
The defensive tactics England were forced to adopt for much of the winter have been hard to shake off for Broad.
“It was a bit of leaving the past behind, and just going and expressing yourself,” he said.
“Personally, I am an attacking cricketer and maybe [had fallen] into a defensive mind-set.
“That was the chat I had with Mooresy, and it freed me up a little bit.”
The upshot is that England have prospects here of a series-levelling victory.
“We’re in a great position in this Test match. We hope the wicket, late day four (into) day five will deteriorate a little bit.”
Although off-spinner Moeen Ali picked up two wickets from false shots, Broad insists England profited from their collective discipline and industry.
“We created enough pressure throughout the day.
“I think you saw that with Mo picking up the two wickets he did.
“You didn’t feel like you could go too full ... so you had to bowl back of a length, and then risk one an over fuller.
“We did what we said we wanted to do – created pressure – and I think we got our rewards at the end of the day.”
Half-centuries from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane held England up, but Anderson and Broad still put themselves in elite company as only the third pair of bowlers to rack up 500 Test wickets in partnership – joining Pakistan’s Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, and the West Indies’ Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.
Broad grew up marvelling at their deeds, and said: “To go into the company of Wasim and Waqar and Courtney and Curtly is a huge honour, four heroes of mine growing up.
“I think it shows the value of partnerships as bowlers...Jimmy and I are constantly talking, not just out on the field but in nets together.
“Even now, we’ve played a lot of Test match cricket, I’ll still ask Jimmy at the end of an over ‘what shall I bowl?’
“We work together really tightly. So to have got 500 wickets together is massive. I hope we can take a few more.”
Rahane fell to neither, instead miscuing a pull at Moeen to midwicket. He said: “I was really disappointed, the way I got out, because I was batting so well. We needed that one partnership to go on.”
England, meanwhile, may still have the option of enforcing the follow-on.
But not if the hard-worked Broad has any say in whether he gets a rest before trying to take another 10 wickets.
“I’ve not discussed it with Cookie, but if you’re asking me it’s 100 per cent off limits,” he said.
Test scoreboard: Page 22.