The Lowdown - Stuart Broad July 27, 2006

Growing in stature and height

Will Luke gives The Lowdown on England's up-and-coming fast bowler Stuart Broad

With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In this weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or as an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of Stuart Broad who continues to make waves on the county circuit



Stuart Broad removed Robert Key for a duck in a recent Twenty20 Cup quarter-final, prompting Key to rate the young bowler very highly © Getty Images

There have been several bowlers in first-class cricket who once, in club-days gone by, masqueraded as opening batsmen. Phil Tufnell, who remarkably opened both the batting and bowling for his club, is someone who immediately springs to mind. Stuart Broad is no cat, thankfully, but he could well be a find for England this winter.

He has had a season to remember. 45 wickets at 29 apiece may not sound too promising, but considering he only turned 20 in June there is clearly a maturity to his shoulders that some of his peers can only envy. It was as a batsman that Broad, the son of Chris - who is now an ICC match referee - first prospered, and he was a good one too. A sudden and remarkable surge in height when he was 17 "forced" him to at least consider bowling fast; already he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and doctors estimate he could top 6 foot 8 in a couple of years. That's really rather tall indeed and is the same height as the fearsome lolloping West Indian, Joel "Big Bird" Garner. The inevitable, glib nickname of Big Broad is just a couple of inches away.

Height isn't everything though, as many a loose-limbed fast bowler can testify to. Chris Tremlett, who has an inch on Broad at the moment, was brought in by Fletcher last summer for England's one-day series between Australia and Bangladesh. He performed admirably, if lacking the control Fletcher so craves from his fast bowlers. So in spite of Broad's similar height, and similar lack of real pace like Tremlett, even at this early stage in his career he is demonstrating the delicious attribute of control.

Though he had twice taken five wickets this season, it was his most recent five-for against Derbyshire in the County Championship which really caught the eye. His rhythmical, natural action is more Glenn McGrath than Joel Garner, demonstrating a similar taste for miserly accuracy as Shaun Pollock has done for South Africa, seemingly for ever. He took 5 for 89 and later told The Times that it was the best he had bowled. "I took four wickets [on the first day] and had four catches dropped. I just felt in a really good rhythm."

Old habits die hard and thankfully Broad, unlike Tufnell, still has an aptitude for batting. After his five wickets against Derbyshire he struck 65 batting at No. 10 to follow an excellent unbeaten fifty against the touring Pakistanis for England A. With the senior side struggling to put 11 first-choice players on the pitch, his timing isn't bad either. To cap off an impressive, albeit embryonic resume, he is currently the most economical bowler in the Twenty20 Cup; in his six matches this season, 10 wickets have cost just 10.30 while conceding just 4.29 runs-per-over. Dominic Cork, the only other regular fast bowler to have played a similar number of games (5), and by all accounts a fine Twenty20 competitor, concedes closer to six runs per over.

What is next on the horizon for him? With the glut of injuries affecting England's Ashes preparations, there might yet be a place at the back of the plane for him to lever in his enormous frame. Especially considering that pitches out in Australia are even harder and even bouncier than the ones in England.

Timeline

2003
Honoured with Leicestershire Young Cricketers Batsman Award
Shoots up in height and considers bowling fast

June 2004
Makes debut for Leicestershire 2nd XI

April 2005
Makes first-class debut for Leicestershire

June 2005
Plays against the touring Australians taking 2 for 77

July-August 2005
Represents England Under-19s against touring Sri Lanka Under-19s, taking nine wickets in the series

March 2006
Called up to England A in the West Indies to replace James Anderson

Recent form
has 45 wickets at 29.00 and an improving batting average of 23.63 with two fifties this season.

What they say - Robert Key, the Kent and England A captain
"[He is] the best young bowler I have ever seen in county cricket" after Broad helped demolish Kent in the Twenty20 Cup quarter-final. "I thought Broad was fantastic and he made the difference with the ball. He's awesome and it won't be long before he will be playing for England."

What he says...talking to Cricinfo about his batting
"I'm never going to be a genuine No.6, but nowadays every batsman needs to score runs. Even if you're batting nine and ten you need to be able to score 70s and 80s so that's my major aim."

What you may not know Scrapes his mark three times before each delivery, and always puts his right pad on first.

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo