Broad excited by England's new faces
Stuart Broad will hope that his personal change in fortune over the last couple of months will be replicated in England's Twenty20 form when they take on India at Old Trafford. It is Broad's second international as captain and his first, against Sri Lanka, couldn't have gone much worse as the home side were hammered by nine wickets at Bristol.
"We learned from the Sri Lanka defeat and as international cricketers it's exciting to have fresh challenges against a strong Indian team," he said. "It was a tough experience but you learn certain things from certain players. We know there's a game to win and that's what we're focused on. We can take confidence from the Test series, the Twenty20 is not something to be scared of, we play the way we play because it can work for us."
Already, one-match into Broad's reign, there have been significant changes to the line-up. Michael Lumb and Luke Wright, who featured at Bristol, both have long-term injuries while Ian Bell has been quietly pushed out of the Twenty20 set-up after being surprisingly left out against Sri Lanka. Those spaces have been taken by Alex Hales, Broad's Nottinghamshire team-mate, Somerset's Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes from Durham.
The trio is among the most exciting talent in the county game. Hales and Buttler, who made 32 off 16 in the Friends Life t20 semi-final against Hampshire, in particular have been rewarded for match-winning domestic performances, while Stokes is viewed as a solution to England's lack of boundary-hitting power in the middle order. Stokes made his ODI debut against Ireland in Dublin, and despite making just 3 off 10 balls is likely to figure in England's plans over the winter, especially when he is fit to bowl again after fracturing a finger mid-season.
"Alex Hales is one a tall guy, 6' 4'' - 6' 5'', and strikes the ball hard," Broad said. "He has an extremely high strike-rate [139.89] in the Twenty20 format and he's done really well in red-ball and white-ball cricket. He's an exciting talent.
"We've seen Jos Buttler play all sorts of shots - particularly against Notts. He can hit over the keeper and fine leg and still has the power to find a straight boundary. He showed his talent on Twenty20 Finals day on Saturday. Stokesy is a strong guy, a big-hitter of the ball. He certainly showed his power in training."
That session at Old Trafford on Tuesday involved simulated match situations in the middle. It is a training method England have made use of before, putting batsmen and bowlers under pressure situations rather than just the normal net routine, and led to Kevin Pietersen getting a painful blow in the throat although there was no lasting damage as he prepared for his final international appearance of the summer.
"It was designed to put the guys under match pressure and you get value for your shots," Broad said. "As a bowler you see if you can get a yorker in the hole or a batsman gets hold of it. We did a first six [over] scenario, a spin scenario and a death scenario just to get used to it. The guys got a lot out of it, a few players struck some big blows and the bowlers nailed their skills as well. We created intensity in the field that we will expect to see.
"You see guys playing under pressure and it was good to get out of the middle. From my point of view I've not bowled on that square since it has been turned around. You got a sense of the size of the boundaries and players how they will strike it."
For Broad, however, his time in charge of the national side is brief. Two days of training followed by the match will be the sum of his leadership until the two Twenty20 matches against West Indies which have been tagged onto the end of the season. They are now looking very important in Broad's development of this team and he accepts he has to make the best use of whatever chances he gets.
"We get three days every couple of months so you have to make use of these opportunities," he said. "And then you get a World Cup where you can build up momentum and take that into the World Cup like we did Caribbean. Three months before that tournament we lost to the Lions in Abu Dhabi, then we were beating the best sides in the world. You have to make use of these opportunities and these sculpt your squad."
England's World Twenty20 defence in Sri Lanka is now little more than 12 months away and, although plans came together at the last minute for the 2010 edition, Broad and Andy Flower will want to have some settled ideas by the end of the summer. A victory against India would be a good place to start.