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Forever second fiddle, Stuart Broad keeps banging out his tune

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read

It may have been another day where Jofra Archer was rampant, but Stuart Broad continues to thrive from the other end, writes Ben Gardner.


“No one’s really mentioned Stuart’s got 10 wickets in the series,” Joe Root told reporters the day before the Test. “It’s been a very impressive start for him, and I think he’s enjoying the fact that [Jofra] Archer’s getting a lot of the headlines. He can just go about his business.”

By the close of the first day at Headingley, that tally had risen to 12, and still no one was talking about Stuart Broad thanks to another searing spell from England’s newest sensation. Whether it’s been Jofra or Jimmy, Broad has had to get used to a role as England’s secondary seamer.

Thanks to the Anderson association, he’s never quite got the credit he’s due, with every milestone ticked off only after his new-ball partner has already beaten him to the mark, to inevitably increased fanfare. And in any case has always been hard to pin down as a bowler; he’s been defined only by the undefinable, by his ability to bowl those spells, when it just clicks for no discernible reason.

In recent years, even that quality has been absent. Before this series, he hadn’t taken a home five-for since the 2015 8-15, and he’s instead been a steady, consistent performer, a silent cog in a clanking machine, with his average in the period between English Ashes series sitting slightly below his overall career figure.

More likely than a sudden loss of form, Broad’s eventual axing seemed destined to come about due to tepid bath water syndrome, a gradual decline and the emergence of younger, faster options eventually causing England to realise they were better off getting out of the tub and putting a towel on.

This was not quite the spell to make his place for Old Trafford secure. By CricViz’s Expected Average measure, he was the pick of the bowlers, just, and he bowled the ball of the day as well, by a distance, moving one away to clip the top of Travis Head’s off stump. It was a vital breakthrough too, coming just after Archer had broken the century stand between David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne which had put Australia well on top. Removing the in-form Head exposed the out-of-form lower-middle order, and Archer cashed in.

His new-ball spell was exemplary, his early working over of David Warner complete bar dismissal. His first wicket, Usman Khawaja tickling down Broad’s worst delivery of the day down the leg side was a perfect example of cricket’s twisted sense of humour, but still fully deserved. He beat the bat with one in four of his deliveries, more often than any other bowler on show. And yet still, this might be Broad’s last Ashes Test.

Any obits might seem premature. Broad is only 33, and might even have been eyeing up a year or two as England’s main man after Anderson’s eventual retirement. But he is no longer first choice all over the world, and with England’s leading Test wicket-taker set to be fit for Old Trafford, a tough decision will have to be made, between Broad and Chris Woakes.

Broad has outbowled Woakes in the series so far, and as it stands leads the race between the two. But dropping Woakes would leave Archer, with a high score of 12 in eight international innings, at No. 8, and Broad himself, who is without a half-century since 2017, at No.9, with a misfiring top order above them.

The harshest thing of all is that there is little Broad can do. He can’t become more skilful than Anderson, or quicker than Archer, or better with the bat than Woakes. But he can at least walk off tonight, without the headlines, but knowing he has perhaps made another telling contribution to an Ashes contest.

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