“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement – you get disappointed if you drop your phone and break your screen. I’ve been frustrated, angry and gutted because it’s quite a hard decision to understand. I’ve probably bowled the best I’ve ever bowled in the last couple of years. I felt like it was my shirt, having been in the team through the Ashes and going to South Africa and winning there,” Stuart Broad said, shooting from the hip, after he was dropped from the first Test match against the West Indies at Ageas Bowl, Southampton.
There was no mincing of words as Broad spoke his heart out, letting his team and selectors know how he felt after being ignored. He made no bones about it and the fact that he was so disappointed – after ending with 14 wickets in the last series against South Africa, to finish as England’s highest wicket-taker – was understandable. In fact, Broad was also England’s highest wicket-getter in the 2019 Ashes with 23 scalps in five Test matches.
There was a chance to once again play for the country after International cricket had returned of 117-day long hiatus but Broad had to wait longer for his opportunity. England lost the first Test by four wickets and it was evident that Broad received his deserved chance in the second Test.
In the first batting innings of West Indies, the visitors were cruising at 242-4 after England’s 469 and Broad was wicketless after 19 overs. It was the final session of the penultimate day after day three was completely washed out and England needed an opening, they desperately wanted wickets in cluster to keep themselves afloat in the Wisden Trophy.
Joe Root took the new ball as soon as it was available and handed it over to Stuart Broad and the old horse knew the way. Broad was able to strike in his second over with the new duke when he nipped the ball back into a well-settled Shamarh Brook, who was batting on 68.
The veteran then removed Jermaine Blackwood, who was West Indies’ hero in Southampton, with a grubber. Subsequently, Broad plumbed Shane Dowrich with an in-nipper, who couldn’t trouble the scorers. Broad had three wickets in three overs and put England back in the contest.
In the second innings, Broad continued from where he had left in the first essay, giving a perfect start to England with the new ball. The lanky paceman snared three wickets in his opening spell of 10 overs, removing John Campbell, Shai Hope and Roston Chase. The seam movement he got from the surface with the new ball was vicious and he finished the match with 6-108. England won by 113 runs and the series was square 1-1.
Broad as expected was walking the talk.
Ben Stokes was the cynosure of all eyes after all-round performance, and deservingly so as he scored 254 runs and scalped three wickets. But the man, which Stokes had dropped in the first Test match, had also quietly done his job.
In the ongoing third and final Test match, England’s batting innings came crashing down as they slipped from 258-4 to 280-8. Broad then scored a whirlwind knock of 62 runs off just 45 balls, going past the 50-run mark to be joint third fastest England’s batsman to a Test fifty. The southpaw hammered the West Indies’ bowlers to all corners of the park, as if he was not happy with breathing down the tourists’ batsmen’s neck with the ball alone.
Broad didn’t take long to strike again as he dismissed Brathwaite on his fourth ball in the first dig. He kept pitching the ball in the good length areas, asking the right questions, and mostly got the ball to nip back to LBW and bowled out the opposition batsman. Broad took his 18th five-wicket haul as he ripped apart the West Indies batting line.
At the fag end of day three, Broad took two more wickets to not only inch closer to the 500-wickets club but also help put his team in the commanding position. On day three, Broad took a total of six wickets, which was the 12th instance when he took more than five wickets in a day of the Test match in the last decade. No other bowler has done the same.
Broad is currently the highest wicket-taker of the ongoing series with 14 wickets at an staggering average of 10.50 and a strike rate of 23.5. Out of these 14 wickets, eight dismissals have been bowled and LBW, which goes to show the accuracy of Stuart Broad. Pitch the ball in the good length area, get the ball to move in from the surface, plumb and bowled the opposition batsmen – has been Broad’s stratagem in this series.
According to Cricviz, Broad has scalped 59% of his wickets at home with bowled and LBW since 2018. Broad is also an excellent judge and knows where his balls are going. The red cherry is listening to all his commands and his celebrappeals are the talk of the town.
Everytime he hits the batsman’s pads, he knows where the ball is going, he doesn’t need to even look at the umpire, he first celebrates and then checks whether the umpire agrees with him or not. Such has been his confidence level.
Broad had to walk back with 499 wickets to his name after the third day’s play and he would need to wait longer to become the fourth fast bowler and the seventh overall, to join the elite 500-wicket club as the fourth days’ play was completely washed off. The 34-year old will be the slowest to get to the milestone after 140 Test matches at an average of 28.
However, Broad’s numbers in the last two years have been nothing short of sensational. In his last 22 Test matches, Broad has snared 82 wickets at an average of 23.46, as if he has got better like old wine.