England v NZ, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day May 19, 2013

Mercurial Broad proves class again

His search for consistency goes on but Stuart Broad's display once more showed he has the attributes to be a special bowler

He may be inconsistent and he may be infuriating but there is no doubt that, when the mood takes him, Stuart Broad is a terrific bowler. In front of a large crowd at Lord's, with a Test in the balance, he produced a devastating display of fast bowling that sealed his side's first victory of the year. He later agreed it was the best spell of his career to date.

Perhaps there is something of the far-from-flat-track bully about Broad. Certainly there were times in India and against South Africa last year when he seemed to go missing in action, when, with the pitch looking flat and the batsmen on top, he appeared to wither in the heat of battle. Times when James Anderson carried too heavy a burden of leading the attack. Great bowlers deliver in those circumstances. As yet, Broad does not belong in that category.

But when Broad bowls like this - and here he displayed pace, persistence, control and swing - he is an irrepressible force. Maintaining an immaculate length, he looked unrecognisable from the lacklustre first-innings Broad impersonator, relishing the helpful conditions and vulnerable prey. It was a great spell.

Broad's partnership with Anderson was devastating. So tight was their control, so adept were they at moving the ball in either direction and so helpful were the conditions that it revived memories of some of England's better fast bowling partnerships of the recent past: Botham and Willis; Caddick and Gough; Harmison, Hoggard, Flintoff and Jones.

Some of New Zealand's batting was tentative and flimsy, certainly, but a couple of players - notably Dean Brownlie and Hamish Rutherford - can console themselves with the knowledge that they received deliveries that were close to unplayable. Alastair Cook rated Anderson and Broad's bowling in the first hour of the New Zealand second inning s "as good as I've seen in an opening spell".

Brendon McCullum agreed. "Broad's spell of bowling was high class," he said. "He swung the ball beautifully, he was able to get the odd ball to hold its line up the slope and his lengths were impeccable. He bowled at a reasonable pace as well. We weren't quite able to work out a way to get through him. So there is partial blame from our point of view but also credit to Stuart for his performance."

Broad has now claimed two five-wicket hauls in his last three Tests but the search for consistency goes on. Circumstances will not often align so nicely for him as they did here and questions remain about his potency on the flattest wickets. But if that sounds a harsh analysis it is only because, with such spells, Broad shows he has all the attributes to be a special bowler. He to whom much is given much is expected. And Broad has been given plenty.

Unlocking the full potential of Broad must be a key objective for England's management team. But perhaps there was a clue to the secret in his comments following the game that he had taken confidence from his batting earlier in the day. Broad has reached 30 only once in his last 20 Test innings but, coming to the crease with England's lead still appearing fragile, he thumped four boundaries in a run-a-ball 26 that constituted the highest individual score of the day.

"Once I got to 20 I got a bit of nosebleed," he said. "I think that gave me a bit of confidence with the ball. That can happen with guys who do both things. Hopefully I can do it a bit more consistently this summer."

What conclusions can we draw from such a statement? Perhaps that, while there is a perception from some that Broad is sometimes a little self-satisfied and lazy - a perception that owes more to the presumption of observers than any factual evidence - it may well be that he is actually lacking the reserves of self-confidence that have proved so valuable to players as varied as Shane Warne, Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen. Perhaps Broad needs to believe how good he can be to deliver more consistently on his substantial promise.

It is encouraging that, aged 26, he continues to look to improve. His delivery to bowl Rutherford, the ball moving up the Lord's slope to take the left-hander's off stump, was a beauty and the product of recent hard work. "It's something I worked on in New Zealand and since coming back," he said. "With Hamish you can't give any width. He thrives on that. So I wanted to pitch it on the stumps and run it across him; it was quite hard to run it up the hill but it nipped up there.

"I had confidence going into the day knowing, if I got the ball up there, there was enough in the wicket to help the bowlers out. I just hit my straps right away and felt in a nice rhythm"
Stuart Broad on his 7 for 44

"It's about rhythm as a bowler. I felt my stride pattern has been pretty good through the start of the summer. I didn't get enough balls in the right area in the first innings, but I felt in decent rhythm. So I had confidence going into the day knowing, if I got the ball up there, there was enough in the wicket to help the bowlers out. I just hit my straps right away and felt in a nice rhythm. As a partnership we built pressure, we didn't give them anything and we were rewarded with the wickets."

While it is the bowlers who will gain the plaudits, it is also worth reflecting on the contribution of a couple of England batsmen. Many players can plunder runs when the sun shines and the pitch is flat, but it is in low-scoring encounters that true class shines through. Here, Joe Root (with 111 runs in the match) and Jonathan Trott (with 95) contributed 206 runs between them and, from the moment they were parted in the second innings, 18 wickets fell for the addition of just 122 runs. Their calmness under pressure, their technique and their patience played a huge role in this success. Both can take huge pride in this result.

"I don't think I've experienced a game that ebbed and flowed as much," Cook said. "There were times when we got ourselves in a strong position but New Zealand came fighting back."

While New Zealand possessed fine bowlers - Tim Southee certainly did not deserve to finish on the losing side - they lacked players such as Trott or Root. Ross Taylor thumped a pleasing, counterattacking half-century during a period on Friday when England's bowlers dropped too short but as soon as they reverted to a fuller length New Zealand struggled. They lost their last 17 wickets in the match for only 128 runs.

Certainly the result - and the fact that it was achieved with a day-and-a-half of the game unused - vindicated England's careful approach on the first day. Such cricket may not always be to the taste of a generation familiar with T20 run rates but it bodes well for England that they have batsmen prepared to display the old-fashioned virtues of graft and determination. They are dying attributes and, in an era where drawn Tests are rare - certainly in England if rain does not intervene - there is plenty of time to display them.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • j on May 21, 2013, 6:35 GMT

    @RandyOz, Welcome back after your hiatus following the Indian tour. Now you're into stats, how many wickets has Siddle taken compared to Anderson and how many games played by each too? Ouch.

  • Mark on May 21, 2013, 5:42 GMT

    Was the match really so much in the balance? Largest score of the match to win? It was closer than the scoreline suggested, but I suspect that people are exagerating just how close it really was. There was a single New Zealand partnership in the whole match and only three scores by their batsmen over 20 in the whole match (England had nine which, in the end, was the difference).

    The New Zealand bowlers kept their side in with a chance, but realistically, in a low-scoring match, they were only very briefly ahead in the game and most of the time were playing catch-up.

  • John on May 21, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    @RandyUK on (May 20, 2013, 20:19 GMT), I commented on another story "If all you can do is look up a player's average then you're a poor excuse for a cricket fan" and here you are to prove my point. Perfect timing! Whatever else, I think that we would agree that Anderson is England's best bowler and Siddle is by no means Australia's best. If England's best bowler would make Australia's second XI and yet England are ranked 2 places higher than Australia, how much better than Australia's must England's batting be? Far more than anyone thought, it would seem, so thank you for bringing that important fact to light

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2013, 3:31 GMT

    Mercurial Broad???? Highly questionable. He is nothing but a decent bowler who can bowl good only in certain conditions. Otherwise, he is nothing but fodder for the cannons elsewhere. Well you can rewrite the article with Anderson as subject, but have to say Broad has/had potential which was lost somewhere in-between London and Dubai, and with Oz coming well with there weak batting line up and a fragmented attack (needs a quality spinner) he can do well with both bat (if he gets the chance) and with the ball.

  • Stuart on May 21, 2013, 3:26 GMT

    There's no doubt that on his day Broad can be a great bowler. Trouble is that too often he ends up bowling short of a length, and seems to lack the patience to bowl in the corridor. However, I'm willing to look over the rubbish he bowled in India as he was carrying an injury, it was England's fault for picking him!

  • Dean on May 20, 2013, 21:14 GMT

    @Valvoulx, I don't remmeber there being too much cloud cover in the UAE last year when Broad's stats read 13W @ 20.46 in 3 tests!

  • Dean on May 20, 2013, 20:47 GMT

    @Chris_Howard, Yes Root deserves a lot of plaudits for his efforts in both inns in what were very tricky batting conditions as does Jimmy for his match figs of 7-70. However the game was very much in the balance before Broad's burst on the 4th morning & I really don't think you can argue with him being MOM. You also shouldn't forget the 26 runs he made on that morning either. It may have only been 26 but it ensured NZL would need to make the highest score of the match batting last, something which seldom happens in test cricket & something which would have given the team a lift when the match was still in the balance. Finally not to take anything away from Root but there is an argument which says Eng would still have won the game without his runs, he made a combined total of 111 & Eng won by 170!

  • Randolph on May 20, 2013, 20:19 GMT

    Anderson has a worse average than Siddle, and wouldn't even make the Oz 2nd XI. Hilarious how much the English press are beating them up!

  • Mark on May 20, 2013, 19:43 GMT

    @SirViv1973 It may not be beside the point that Stuart Broad himself said that it was Jimmy Anderson who should have been man of the match, not him.

    @64blip I would have played Bresnan at Lords. Despite his wrapping up the tail, the pitch was never going to favour Steve Finn, who has not been on song at all this season, whereas Tim Bresnan is looking back to his best again. As it turns out he was able to get back to Edgbaston and have a decent bowl, which will have done him some good and showed that he is in good knick: if he is good enough to be put in the Test XII he has to be good enough to play on the day.

  • Sean on May 20, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    I'd like to see Bresnan in for Finn at Headingley. He gives more control and can reverse the ball later in the innings. He seems to be in good nick after his operation. However, I think they may stick with Finn to see if they can get him to come right, knowing Bresnan is there if not. At 26 Broad is coming into his physical prime, so if his heel really is better, and the penny has finally dropped regarding length and line, England could be in for some good times.

    @ Manie Meyer While we're comparing what NZ did with whom, how did they do in Australia?

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