Since returning to the team, Stuart Broad has enjoyed a terrific run of form. If his six wickets were crucial in setting up a series-levelling win, his all-round produce on Saturday has put England on course of reclaiming the Wisden Trophy.
The joy is back on Stuart Broad’s face. Snubbed for the first Test a fortnight ago, he was grumpy and publicly expressed his displeasure. But since returning to the team, he has enjoyed a terrific run of form. If his six wickets were crucial in setting up a series-levelling win, his all-round produce on the second day of the decider has put England on course of reclaiming the Wisden Trophy.
First, he turned the game around with his bat, his exciting cameo (62 off 45 balls) jet-setting England to a stiff total of 369 after striding into the middle much earlier than expected following the loss of four wickets for 18 runs in 22 balls. Later with the ball, he helped England tighten the grip over the match, seeing off the stubborn Kraigg Brathwaite and the reliable Roston Chase. Subsequently, West Indies stumbled to 137/6 when bad light stopped play.
Broad is no longer the batsman he once promised to be — his lone hundred has now attained a standoffish cult status. Even his propensity to produce the odd cameo has diminished, and his batting barely sneaks into pub-tables, forget coffeehouses. But he illustrated that while his technique may never again stand up to the scrutiny of a proper Test innings, his eye remains as excellent as ever.
He batted with such nonchalance that he seemed to be mocking at conclusions that he is a walking wicket to short-pitched deliveries. Rather, he has devised a method to nullify his weakness. It’s not foolproof or pretty, but it was ridiculously effective and frustrated the West Indies pacers. As soon as the bowler is about to release the ball, Broad would start opening up his stance, clear his front leg and manufacture room to swing his shoulders. Depending on where the ball was pitched, he would cream them over midwicket, club them past square leg, blast them down the ground or slash them over point. Several times he swiped the air, but he also lashed them to the fences.
Roach, whose morning spell was as incisive as it was hostile, was smacked over midwicket, an unalloyed attacking stroke beyond the decorum of mainstream batsmen. He then filleted through the least expensive of West Indies’ bowlers, Jason Holder. In the space of 14 balls, the captain was bludgeoned for seven fours, the last of which brought up his fifty from 33 balls, third joint-fastest half-century for an Englishman. He added 12 more runs before miscueing a low full-toss, but by the time had already yielded 76 runs with his stout partner Dom Bess and taken the match away from the visitors.
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It was Broad’s first Test fifty since the Boxing Day Test of December 2017 and his highest score in 125 innings dating back to a score of 65 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 2013. It wouldn’t have been timelier, when England had crumbled from 246 for four to 280 for eight in the face of a heavy second new-ball onslaught from Shannon Gabriel and Roach. Forget 350, even 300 seemed a sweat. But then intervened Broad, and he hardly seemed to break a sweat.
An hour later, he intervened again, picking out Brathwaite, West Indies’s best hope of putting a reasonable total on board. But the hope lasted only four balls into his first over, when he made one nibble off the seam and brushed his outside edge to the first slip. Brathwaite was waiting for the nip-backer, but Broad dialled his old friend, the away-swinger. Later in the day, at the backend of a belligerent second spell, he summoned the nip-backer to pin Roston Chase in front.
With Chase’s predilection to thrust the front leg and bring the bat around it, he was always going to be fodder for Broad. Between these strikes, James Anderson bagged a brace, an inch-perfect out-swinger followed by a razor-sharp in-swinger while Jofra Archer bounced out John Campbell with a ripping lifter. Chris Woakes later chimed in with Jermaine Blackwood’s wicket to leave the visitors tottering and Broad wheeling away in joy.
Brief Scores: England 369 in 111.5 ovs (Rory Burns 57, Jos Buttler 67, Ollie Pope 91, Stuart Broad 62; Kemar Roach 4/72) vs West Indies 137 for 6 in 47.1 ovs (John Campbell 32; Broad 2/17, James Anderson 2/17)