October 23, 2019, 11:55

Stuart Broad helps set Ashes tone with brilliant opening spell at Edgbaston

Stuart Broad helps set Ashes tone with brilliant opening spell at Edgbaston

‘Oh My Broad’.

It was the social media craze that swept the nation back in 2015 as Stuart Broad swept aside the Aussies with 8-15 on a stunning first morning of the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.

Four years on, and Broad was back at it – this time in Birmingham – taking 5-86 as Australia crumbled to 122-8 before another Steve Smith batting masterclass rescued them up to a score of 284.

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Broad’s third strike, to arguably his most innocuous delivery of a dream day, prompted him to again cup his hands over his mouth, while wide-eyed with astonishment.

Four years ago it came courtesy of Ben Stokes flinging himself to his right from fifth slip to pull off an incredible one-handed grab. This time, Broad’s shock was triggered by a woeful shot from Australia skipper Tim Paine (5), pulling a half-tracker straight to Rory Burns on the deep square-leg boundary.

Broad loves The Ashes.

His fifth wicket, finally breaking Smith’s defences to wrap up the innings, was his 100th against Australia. Often described as a ‘streaky’ bowler, Broad’s best and most streaky spells have so often been reserved for England’s greatest rivals.

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In 2009, Broad announced himself on the world stage with a first-innings 5-37 at The Oval, in 2013 he took a career-best 11-121 in the Test up at Durham and then there was his eight-for in 2015 – each haul helping England regain the urn.

On this occasion, Broad’s brilliance looked to be decisive in setting up an Ashes win instead of securing one.

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Broad bowled arguably his best opening spell in an England shirt, taking 2-17 in six overs. He could, and should, have picked up David Warner with his very first ball, albeit to a loosener down the legside – a thin nick going undetected by the umpire – before then trapping him lbw in his next over, this time the luck going Broad’s way as, had Warner (2) reviewed, the decision would have been overturned.

Cameron Bancroft (8) became Broad’s second victim, steering to slip in the fourth over. The wicket ball was actually that slight bit shorter, but came courtesy of Broad nagging away on a fuller length – 64 per cent of Broad’s deliveries at that stage full, as opposed to 26 per cent historically in his opening five overs on home soil.

Broad’s speed was up too. His average of 139.27kph (86.5mph) was the quickest he has bowled in the first 10 overs of a home Test since 2014.

Perhaps responsible for lighting the fire under Broad, is the strength of England’s pace attack. World Cup Super-Over star Jofra Archer is the most notable omission from this team, while Olly Stone and Sam Curran too presented impressive cases for selection against Ireland last week at Lord’s.

At 33 years old, Broad’s spot in the side was said to be under threat from the young upstarts. That is far from being the case now, not only due to his exploits at Edgbaston but also the worrying calf injury to Jimmy Anderson on the opening morning – the leader of England’s attack limped off the field after getting through only four overs.

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Broad has stepped up in Anderson’s absence before, specifically on that first morning in Nottingham four years ago and, once more, he appeared to revel in filling the added Anderson-shaped void left behind.

He added two further Aussie scalps in one over – Paine’s brain-fade and James Pattinson lbw second ball – as England ran through Australia in the afternoon, while he was unfortunate not to take the key wicket of Smith when on 34, given out when shouldering arms, only for it to be overturned.

It would prove to be a massive moment in the day, perhaps even the Ashes, as Smith would wear down a weary England attack to the tune of 144 of the hardest earned runs, the scars from his 687 runs at 137.40 during the 2017/18 Ashes series still evident.

Smith’s ton – his 24th in Tests and ninth against England – is, incredibly, his 15th in 30 innings when Australia bat first.

Source: skysports.com

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