Never intimidating, our Stuart Broad: forever confused, yet oddly effective...    Getty Images
Never intimidating, our Stuart Broad: forever confused, yet oddly effective… Getty Images

August 6, 2015. After three one-sided encounters, Australia arrived at Trent Bridge to level The Ashes. Alastair Cook put them in despite the absence of James Anderson; bowling in his home ground, Stuart Broad more than made up for his senior partner s absence, sending Australia packing before lunch on Day One. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the greatest displays of new-ball bowling.

Well, we re batting, said Michael Clarke at the toss after he lost the toss, was asked to bat, and was asked whether he would have batted. With the English team-sheet in his hand, he already knew that he would not have to encounter James Anderson on a pitch tailor-made for the new-ball bowler.

Clarke probably wanted to unleash Mitchell Starc and his mates on the hosts. After all, Australia had been dished out a similar treatment at Edgbaston, where Anderson had scythed through England in the first morning with 6 for 47. At stumps on Day One, England were 133 for 3 after bowling Australia for 136. There was no coming back from there despite Anderson hobbling out with a side strain in the second innings.

The first two Tests, however, were played on relatively flatter tracks. England s batsmen had sealed the Cardiff Test, while Steven Smith s brilliance and Chris Rogers s belligerence had helped Australia level the series at Lord s.

But Edgbaston was no Cardiff or Lord s. Alastair Cook had won the all-important toss. Clarke s response told the story. The pitch was soft. There was dampness in the air after a morning s rain.

From the shadows of Larwood and Voce

Stuart Broad is no legend. He is not the kind of man fairytales are woven around. Unlike that pit-boy from the same county who had rocked Australia over eight decades ago, Broad has not been taught to hate batsmen.

Even with ball in hand, even in home ground, Broad has a boyish look that barely scares batsmen. Blonde and fairy-faced, his is the kind of face that neither scares batsmen nor sweeps women off their feet. At most it urges is to get mothers want to stuff him with food.

Broad does not have intimidating facial hair like Lillee or Johnson. His eyes, unlike those of Roberts or Holding, do not send a chill down batsmen s spine. He does not have the pace of Thomson or Akhtar. He is not a champion of movement like Wasim or Waqar. Unlike McGrath or Pollock, his line and length are not metronomic. Neither does possess the steely determination of a Hadlee or the fitness of a Kapil.

No, Broad is not any of them. Broad is not even the spearhead of the current England attack. In fact, the Trent Bridge Test was only his sixth without Anderson in an 83-Test career till then.

And yet… at the time of writing this article, whenever Broad has taken 5 wickets in an innings, they have come at 9.69 apiece and one every 3 overs. He leads the charts in the latter.

He has also converted 10 of his 15 five-wicket hauls to six-wicket hauls. That is two out of every three innings. These six-fors have come at 7.68 apiece and one every 16.9 balls.

Broad is not consistent. He has never been. But when he rains…

This just happened to be one those days. This was a day matched by none. This was a day something even Harold Larwood, probably the fastest man to have bowled at Trent Bridge, had not been able to replicate.

This was the day when Broad emerged from the shadows of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce to stamp his name on the pantheon of greatest bowlers of Nottinghamshire.

This was also his home ground. Trent Bridge was Broad s home. This was where he had got 64 and 4 for 87 against New Zealand. This was where his 44 had bailed England out against India before he became the first to take a Test hat-trick against them, finishing with 6 for 46.

Trent Bridge had never failed Broad. He has never taken less than 3 wickets in a Test there. Only one of his 8 innings till then was below 20. He averaged 39 with bat and 23 with ball at the ground already outstanding numbers when he took new ball that day.

Moreover, he was on 299 Test wickets…

T te- -t te

Neither Broad nor Australian No. 11 Nathan Lyon thought the wicket had much in it for the bowlers. They had a chat before the match. When Broad predicted that the conditions were not optimal for bowling first, Lyon agreed promptly.

Thankfully, Broad’s bowling abilities were somewhat superior to judging the conditions.

Chris Rogers

Rogers was on strike. He had looked assured at Lord s. His long stints with several counties had helped him adjust to English conditions. He looked more comfortable against Anderson and Broad than any other Australian on the tour.

David Warner was the bigger name; Smith, perhaps the biggest; and Michael Clarke, the old warhorse. Adam Voges, despite his late arrival, added solidity to the middle-order.

But Rogers was different. He had been dropped for four-and-a-half years after his Test debut. He made his comeback at Trent Bridge in Ashes 2013, and has never looked back since.

This was going to be the last Test series for Rogers. While Warner had bludgeoned away at opposition bowlers, Rogers had been the rock at the top. In Ashes 2015, too, he had scored 95 at Cardiff, a big hundred at Lord s, and that first-innings 52 at Edgbaston when he was eighth out and no one else reached 20.

His was the big wicket.

Broad ran in. The umbrella, starting with Jos Buttler and ending with the gully, crouched down. The first ball, delivered from round the wicket, met a dead bat and rolled to cover. The next ball brushed Rogers s pads and ran to the fine-leg fence.

The third ball was a beauty. Broad pitched it up. It moved into Rogers, off the seam, took the outside edge. All Cook had to do was kneel to his left and wait for the catch.

And Broad became the fifth Englishman to make it to the 300-wicket mark.

The five big wickets for Stuart Broad (from left): Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Shaun Marsh, Adam Voges, Michael Clarke    Getty Images
The five big wickets for Stuart Broad that day (from left): Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Shaun Marsh, Adam Voges, Michael Clarke Getty Images

Steven Smith

With his tendency to shuffle across the stumps, Smith is hardly a purist s delight. He would not get runs in England, they had warned. He would not be able to adjust to the lateral movement, they had said.

But Smith silenced them with a double-hundred at Lord s. Here, too, walking out in the first over did not deter him. He drove the first ball past mid-on for two, and square-drove the next for four.

Five balls. Ten runs. True, there had been a wicket, but Smith had won a psychological mini-battle.

The next ball pitched on off and straightened, and found a shuffling Smith. The edge was thicker than Rogers s, and Joe Root did the rest at third slip.

Shaun Marsh

It took Mark Wood 2 balls to have Warner caught-behind. Clarke edged one that flew past the stumps. And the score read 15 for 3 after 2 overs.

Shaun Marsh left the first ball and inside-edged the second. He looked comfortable when he flicked the third ball towards mid-wicket.

The next delivery was outside off. Marsh could have left it alone, but he was somehow sucked into a prod, and the ball flew to Ian Bell at second slip.

Australia 15 for 4. Broad 1.4-0-6-3. Things were not looking good for the tourists.

Adam Voges

He is never the most attractive of batsmen, but Voges will feature among the gutsiest. Broad appeal voraciously when he rapped Voges on the pads first ball, but did not get the wicket. Worse, the ball ran to the fine-leg fence.

Clarke survived one off Wood s next over when his pull fell short of deep fine-leg.

Broad steamed in for his third over. He was probably not happy with the fact that Wood had bowled the first wicketless over of the day.

As before, Broad stuck to an off-stump line. Down came Voges s bat. The ball took the outside edge and flew past gully, past the outstretched right hand of a flying Ben Stokes… Adam Lyth predicted the path of the ball and ran to intercept it at deep third-man…

Hang on, did it pass Ben Stokes?

Stokes had flung himself in the air, to his right. The ball was flying too fast for him. There was no way he could have caught that.

But he dived. By some inexplicable reflex action he timed the dive to perfection. He caught the ball, one-handed. Or probably the ball stuck. Whatever it was, it was nothing short of a stunner.

Stokes later explained why the ball had ‘stuck’: thanks to a surgery that had gone marginally wrong, his right index finger had become slightly crooked. Stokes, perhaps adoringly, refers to it as ‘the claw’.

No one could believe that Stokes had actually pulled it off. Stokes himself was ecstatic, as was his teammates. The most astonished of all was the man-child as he ran towards Stokes: his eyes seemed to pop out in uninhibited astonishment; his palms covered his mouth in a reflex action to match any schoolboy s; and as Australia slumped to 21 for 5, his figures read 2.1-1-6-4.

Broad later recalled in Broadside: “In a flash, I saw Stokesy dive at full stretch to his right. I was convinced the ball had evaded him, it was travelling that quickly. Somehow, and I still don’t know how, he managed to fling his right hand out low, to his right, and behind him. The ball stuck. It was a ridiculous catch … I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. It was without a doubt the best catch I’ve seen live.”

Michael Clarke

Australia had summoned Peter Nevill as deputy to Brad Haddin. He was so obscure at international level that people added an extra E after his surname, Nevill ended up pushing Haddin into early retirement.

He left one from Broad off the fourth ball he faced. The ball nipped back and passed just over the stumps, perilously close to the off-bail.

Clarke decided to counterattack. He took Wood on, pulling him firmly for four. A push to mid-on yielded a single. And Broad resumed.

The ball was pitched outside off. Clarke, for some inexplicable reason, went for an expansive drive to a moving ball, and it flew to slip. Just like that.

It had taken Broad 19 balls to take 5 wickets, putting him at par with Ernie Toshack, who had done the same against India at The Gabba in 1947-48.

Broad s spell read 3.1-2-6-5. Since he did not take a wicket with his first 2 balls, the 5 wickets had actually taken 17 balls.

While this was exceptional bowling, it was not even Broad s most destructive spell till then, not even at Trent Bridge. Four years back, against India, Broad had a spell of 5 for 0 in 16 balls.

Things would change by the end of the spell.

Mitchell Starc

Cook replaced Wood with Steven Finn at the other end. Finn had got Clarke with a yorker at Edgbaston. There was almost an encore, but Nevill survived but not for long.

It did not bother Finn. He pitched one outside off, Nevill groped for it without any visible purpose, and the ball made its way through the gate.

Realising the futility of hanging around, Mitchell Johnson went after Finn. Two almighty heaves flew through the slip cordon.

Starc was not as fortunate. He played away from his body, he feet rooted to the ground, and ended up edging to Root as third slip.

Mitchell Johnson

No. 10 Josh Hazlewood did something most top-order batsmen could not that day. He timed the push well, and by the ball reached cover he scampered across to give the strike back to Johnson, the man who had demolished England a year-and-a-half back.

Did Johnson have a brain-freeze? Why would he attempt to play a ball through a phalanx of slip fielders otherwise, that too to a new-ball bowler in the form of a lifetime? Maybe he tried to keep it down…

Broad s figures read 7-3-11-7. Australia were 47 for 9.

Nathan Lyon

Lyon walked out, holding up a brave smile as he crossed Broad: “Broady, I think we might have been wrong, you know, mate. Maybe it was a bowl-first day after all.”

Broad was left in two minds. For the first time in the day he was up against a challenge. Would he agree that he had been wrong? Would he confess the batting had been poor?

But he found his comeback: “I don’t know. It was a bat-first track; it just needed your batters to turn up!”

Hazlewood and Lyon poked around, picking up a boundary each (though Lyon s was a fiery slash that flew over slips). They battled hard, doing the unthinkable, forcing Broad to go for two wicketless overs.

Fifty came up for Australia. Later, even the partnership reached double-figures.

Cook kept adding men to the arc of slips. There were five now, close enough to each other to be called slips (and not gullies).

Lyon pushed firmly. The ball took the outside edge, and as is expected when you push at a fast ball hard and do not middle it, the ball flew towards the slips the fifth, the outermost of the quintet.

Broad finished with 9.3-5-15-8. The last 7 wickets had come for the cost of 9 runs. Since 1970 only two men Curtly Ambrose (7 for 1) and Steve Harmison (7 for 8) have had cheaper 7-wicket bursts.

Broad also claimed 8 for 15, the third-cheapest 8-wicket haul, after George Lohmann (8 for 7) and Johnny Briggs (8 for 11).

Australia were bowled out for 60, well before lunch. Broad registered the best figures by anyone in the first session of a Test, going past Graham McKenzie s 6 for 34.

Ironically, all that happened on the same day Sri Lanka had amassed 952 for 6, 18 years back.

The scorecard tells the story of 60 all out and 8 for 15    Getty Images
The scorecard tells the story of 60 all out and 8 for 15 Getty Images

What followed?

To add insult to injury, England reached 13 without loss by lunch. By stumps they were 274 for 4, already 214 runs. Root (124 at stumps) had already scored more than double England s aggregate.

Cook declared on 391 for 9 on Day Two, Broad remaining unbeaten on a 29-ball 24. Warner and Rogers added 113 for the opening stand, but Australia were bowled out for 253 on the third morning, Stokes taking 6 for 36. Somewhat unexpectedly, Broad had a solitary wicket, and never got his 10-wicket haul.

Not that it mattered to Broad, for the urn had been regained. Australia had a consolation win (by an innings) at The Oval, but it came too late in the series.

On September 17, Nottingham Express Transit named a tram after Broad.

 

Brief scores:

Australia 60 (Stuart Broad 8 for 15) and 253 (Chris Rogers 52, David Warner 64, Adam Voges 51*; Mark Wood 3 for 69, Ben Stokes 6 for 36) lost to England 391 (Alastair Cook 43, Joe Root 130, Jonny Bairstow 74; Mitchell Starc 6 for 111) by an innings and 78 runs.

Man of the Match: Stuart Broad.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)