Australia gives England a helping hand
The first day at the Gabba was dominated by all things Stuart Broad, particularly the local reaction to his mere presence. While banners displaying various slogans were held up in the stands, Brisbane's Courier-Mail decided not to name him at all in the newspaper. The front page made headlines of its own but Vic Marks in the Guardian wondered if all the goading hadn't given England a helping hand:
Broad, no shrinking violet, rather likes an extra bit of pressure. No doubt Australia's fourth estate was trying to offer patriotic support but we were soon reminded of the "Is That All You've Got?" headline, which was directed at England's reliance on Jonny Wilkinson's boot at the start of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. This competition came to its conclusion exactly 10 years ago in Sydney with England beating Australia 20-17 in extra time - thanks to Wilko's boot.
On Thursday Broad demonstrated that, like Wilkinson, he had enough as well. No matter that his first delivery was a no-ball, carted for four by David Warner. Broad has been belted for six sixes in an over by Yuvraj Singh and bounced back without any obvious scars. Here he would do so with a flourish.
As familiar as the demonisation of Broad was a sense during the build-up, particularly in the home media, that Australia were coming into the series with an edge over England. Yet there were familiar failings on display in Brisbane and Martin Samuel, writing in the Daily Mail, suggested that the confidence was as misplaced as the attacks on Broad:
Day one was no laughing matter for Australia, though. Rarely has so much swagger been supported by so little action. 'Broad can talk the talk, but can't walk the walk,' read one banner, a reference both to his refusal to depart when plainly out at Trent Bridge in the summer, and the Australian fantasy that his confrontational nature is not backed by true courage or ability. Stuart Fraud as the Courier-Mail had it, before they baulked at using his name.
Opposite. It was Australia whose claims of confidence and resurgence were exposed as so much blather; England and Broad who demonstrated the steely resolve that demonstrated the 3-0 gulf between the teams in the summer was perhaps not the fluke that has been depicted in these parts.
For the Australian view, over in the Sydney Morning Herald Malcolm Knox lauds the effort of Brad Haddin after he rescued the first innings.
When Haddin came back into the team this year, his wicketkeeping brought sweet relief. The neat freak was back. If keepers aren't obsessive-compulsive about tidiness, they're nothing. They are also, in the post-Gilchrist era, increasingly judged by their batting. International cricket is enjoying a golden age in just one facet today, which is the glut of superhero-gloved all-rounders, men who have made a norm of what was once a rarity, the wicketkeeper's Test century. Haddin has scored three, but his career is inevitably overshadowed by the men who came before him, Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist, and his coevals on the international stage. He is somewhat in the lee of Kumar Sangakkara, A.B.de Villiers, M.S.Dhoni, Matt Prior and Brendon McCullum. At any other time, Haddin would be recognised at his full value.
And in the same paper, Greg Baum is allowed to mention Stuart Broad's name as he added another entry to his list of outstanding Ashes spells
Now Broad sprinted, and vaulted, and high-fived, and all but clicked his heels, and in the field dived lengthways to save four overthrows, and flounced twice when urging Alastair Cook to refer not out decisions, for he had made himself the central figure this day, and he knew it. When he did walk, it was with his head up and his chest out. In 15 balls, he had cut out Australia's heart, and the Ashes series had picked up where it left off in August.