England v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day June 7, 2008

Broad steps up in victory hunt

Stuart Broad followed his success with the bat with a mature bowling display at Trent Bridge to put England on course for victory


Standing tall: 'If someone's having an off day, someone stands up and puts their hands up. The whole thing about bowling in a unit is supporting each other' © Getty Images
 
Not since the heady days of 2005 have England managed to string two series victories together, but after the third day's play at Trent Bridge - including the late, crucial wicket of Brendon McCullum for 71 - they are on the cusp of beating New Zealand for the second time in three months. They may not have consistently produced the "aggressive, vibrant" cricket called for by Michael Vaughan at the start of the series, but Stuart Broad has done his utmost to pay heed to his captain's rallying cry.

He was a little expensive, Broad, but provided Vaughan with a venom oddly lacking from his usual banker, Ryan Sidebottom, though his senior bowler still reacted angrily time after time to anything resembling a near-chance. It was to his young up-and-comer who Vaughan turned in the morning after both Sidebottom and James Anderson - irrepressible yesterday in his six-wicket burst - lacked control, and Broad duly delivered.

Breaking through the resistance of Kyle Mills, before bowling Iain O'Brien with an unplayable outswinger, he combined control with movement and pace. Those attributes are common of an experienced bowler, but far less so for a 21-year-old Englishman, and he remained understandably bullish about England's chances tomorrow, even if New Zealand's last five are able to set a target.

"Hopefully tomorrow we'll wake up and it'll swing like it did today," Broad said. "[There is] quite useful swing for the bowlers and we'll have to execute the plans. Certainly to knock them over this morning was the main aim and we managed to do that. So, with five wickets to go tomorrow, we've got to look to knock them [over] again. If it doesn't swing - it's quite a good wicket to bat on if it doesn't swing - and they get 180 ahead, we've got to back ourselves to get them."

England are on course, then. But were it not for Broad's influence with the bat at Old Trafford, it could have been England trailing the series. Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and Tim Ambrose all fell in a procession as they limped in their first innings of the second Test. Yet it was Broad who provided the wag to a severed tail with 30 from 50 balls, adding ballast to England's paltry total. More importantly, his aggression almost made batting look easy on a pitch others had struggled on, and gave England the belief to chase 294 in their second innings.

Likewise here at Trent Bridge, his crucial 64 - classy on the front foot; languid off the back - propped up England's lower-order, putting on an unlikely 76 with Anderson. With England resuming on 273 for 7, not even the most optimistic supporter would have imagined them escaping to 364. It duly deflated New Zealand's brittle confidence, which was then spectacularly exploited by Anderson who ended with a career-best 7 for 43. Without Broad's contribution, the state of this match would be entirely different, yet he remained characteristically generous despite his all-round efforts.

"The conditions at Trent Bridge have suited our style of attack," he said. "Jimmy is so dangerous when it swings. You know what Sidebottom is like the whole time. Throughout the series I think we've bowled quite nicely.

"To bowl them out [at Lord's] was pleasing, then the weather scuppered us. But we showed more character bowling New Zealand out at Old Trafford, and have taken 20 wickets when we've been asked to. We're gelling quite well as a unit. If someone's having an off day, someone stands up and puts their hands up. The whole thing about bowling in a unit is supporting each other. If someone's on fire, like Monty was at Old Trafford, the seamers had to support and keep it tight, and Monty today did a fantastic job. It wasn't particularly turning for him, but he didn't go for any runs. The whole unit is bowling nicely together, and the wickets are for everyone."

Vaughan recently called Broad - 12 years his junior - "the most intelligent bowler" he had ever worked with. And even while McCullum was threatening to give New Zealand a lifeline, Broad showed the tenacious spirit and nerveless energy which is fast becoming a character trait, rarely letting McCullum settle. It has been an auspicious beginning to an "aggressive, vibrant" career. How he will cope with South Africa's natural aggression will make for compelling viewing later in the summer.

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo