Broad reaches hero status
"Hear Stuart Broad's eight wickets," a man offering radios shouted outside The Oval in the morning. Not sure if he received much interest, but he got lots of laughs. The English are great at humour in times of despair and using Broad as a selling point was appropriate. As if Broad, who has been more pretty boy than man of substance in the first four Tests, would be capable of that.
He didn't quite fulfil the prophecy, but his five wickets after lunch gave England a chance to regain the Ashes, helping him join an impressive list of England allrounders who have floored Australia in their favourite contest. While Broad in 2009 is not the Andrew Flintoff of 2005 ("If I could be half as good as he can be I'll be very pleased.") or 1981's Ian Botham, he produced the decisive performance at a time when his side desperately needed it.
At the start of the day he was not out and just as likely to have a say through his batting. Sure he took six wickets in Australia's only innings at Headingley, but his crunching strokeplay was more memorable than his breakthroughs as his side was ground in the Leeds mortar. This time, after scoring a useful 37, there was unforgettable elation from his 5 for 37 from 12 overs, all delivered in one spell.
Light rain delayed the post-lunch start and instead of continuing with Graeme Swann, Strauss looked towards the blond locks of Broad. The ball shaped consistently but not significantly, and was more than enough trouble for the Australians as they imploded from 73 for 0 to 160 all out. Swann cleaned up at the end with four wickets after Broad caused the rubble.
"My plan was to really bring the stumps into play and look for bowleds and lbws instead of caught slip," he said. "I was clear in my mind what I was trying to do, really trying to slam it into the deck, that's the way I bowl. I don't want to bowl too full because when I'm bowling well it swings from that [preferred] length."
After 47 deliveries he was raising the ball for his fifth wicket, the sun lighting up a red side while shining on Broad's rosy cheek. This was the day he became an Ashes hero, standing high above his more nervous team-mates. In the stands his mum was screaming so much she lost her voice. "I saw her cheering on a few occasions, which was nice to see," he said. "Hopefully come second innings she'll still be cheering."
His father Chris, an ICC match referee, was also at the ground. He used to tell his boy stories about winning the Ashes in Australia in 1986-87. Broad is cautious about his own successful tale. "It's certainly not an Ashes story yet," he said. "If we win on Monday it might be."
Broad's final victim was Brad Haddin, who had his stumps splayed by an outswinger he thought would go straight. It was the ugliest dismissal for the Australians and the most beautiful sight for the English. At 111 for 7 there appeared no way back for the tourists, although the loss of three batsmen late in the innings raised the hosts' heart rates.
It took six balls for Broad's first strike, doing what Flintoff and James Anderson couldn't when he won an lbw decision after pushing one past Shane Watson's bat. Broad was so confident he ran down the pitch without turning to the umpire for approval until late in his follow through.
That ball angled in, just like the one that forced Ricky Ponting back. Ponting had already under-edged a four to fine leg and was also jumping while showing an angled bat when a follow-up effort ricocheted into the pitch and on to off stump. Ponting went grim-faced for 8 and the biting of his nails became more focussed with each wicket. It was a similar look to his last Test visit here four years ago.
By now the batsmen knew Broad was moving it in to the right-handers so Michael Hussey was expecting the ball to curve away from him. His third offering from Broad went the other way and Hussey, too slow in recognising the change, experienced an embarrassing lbw. Broad had total control of the ball, waving it from side to side and watching the batsmen falter.
He was quickly becoming a treasured player and the supporters in the main stand at the Vauxhall End stood to applaud. Broad waved confidently, but there was still work to be done. Michael Clarke's wicket had more to do with the batsman's loose drive and the field setting of Jonathan Trott at short cover than the bowler's tricks, but it was happily added to a list of four breakthroughs in 3.3 overs.
When Haddin twisted to leg as the ball curled into off stump Broad was the target of everyone's eyes. He was allowed the chance to add a couple more but his dozen overs of damage ended at tea. Tired and flushed in the face, he led the players, the ones who hadn't sprinted to the dressing room to pad up, off the ground when Australia's tail was extinguished. At the end of the day Broad wasn't just on the radio, he was everywhere.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo