Stuart Broad has warned that England's rejigged seam attack will have to adapt quickly to what promises to be another slow and unforgiving Lord's surface, as he prepares once again to lead the line in the first Test against Pakistan in the absence of his long-term new-ball partner, James Anderson.
Anderson was omitted from England's 12-man squad due to a shoulder injury, meaning that Broad, with 94 caps to date, will have played more than twice as many Tests as the rest of England's seam attack combined when the series gets underway on Thursday. Steven Finn (32 Tests) and Chris Woakes (eight) look set to be joined in the starting XI by one of two debutants, Jake Ball or Toby Roland-Jones, with Moeen Ali's offspin completing a five-man attack.
However, the Lord's Test will be only the ninth time in his career that Broad has taken the field without his senior partner at the other end. And while he has relished that responsibility in the recent past, not least at Trent Bridge in last summer's Ashes when he claimed a career-best 8 for 15 on the opening morning of the fourth Test, Broad knows that the Lord's surface is unlikely to offer anything approaching the same sort of assistance to England's quicks.
That, in turn, spells danger for an England team who were thrashed by 405 runs during last summer's Lord's Test against Australia, and also succumbed 2-0 to Pakistan on the flat decks of the UAE last winter. With a bowling attack led by the left-arm pace duo of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, and complemented by the attacking legspin of Yasir Shah, the first Test is arguably Pakistan's best opportunity to land a telling blow in a four-Test series that their captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, last week identified as their "biggest challenge".
Broad and England were given an early indication of what might be in store on the Lord's surface when they were held to a draw - albeit rain-affected - during the third Test of the Sri Lanka series last month, having bundled their rivals out for scores of 91, 119 and 101 in their first three innings of the series at Headingley and Chester-le-Street.
"Our biggest challenge is going to be this wicket," Broad said during an Investec event at Lord's. "The Test match against Sri Lanka was a bit of a bore draw so it will be interesting to see what they produce. The biggest test for the bowling unit will be trying to do what no other team has done this year, which is to win a game and take 20 wickets at Lord's. It was a challenge when we had Jimmy in the side four weeks ago, so it will be an even bigger challenge this time.
"The Sri Lanka wicket [didn't offer] a regulation nick," he added. "They got wickets with lbws and bowleds so it will be about adjusting as quickly as possible. If we play on a wicket at Lord's similar to the one against Australia that will be right up Pakistan's street. Wahab and Yasir Shah is a similar sort of attack. If we do come across a wicket like that, which is always a lottery at Lord's, we have got to be better at adapting."
To that end, Broad recognises the importance of his role, both as a leader by example, but also as the de facto captain of an inexperienced bowling line-up. One of the secrets of his successful partnership with Anderson has been the ease of communication between the pair, and he knows he may need to be available to lend an ear to his team-mates if the going gets tough during the coming days.
"Our success comes from communication so the key will be get a bond between the bowling unit and sharing a lot of information," he said. "We always talk, not as an ego thing, but to try to get one over the opening batsman. A series can be a long time, so let's try and stamp our authority quickly on them.
"Bowlers spend more time with each other. Batsmen are at the other end in the nets, so you feel like you have to get to know the bowlers to help the captain out. You become a bit of a go-between as a senior bowler. A bowler might be really struggling with the wind, or the foot-holes, but does not want to tell the England captain he is struggling, so you can easily pass a little message on quietly.
"We will be talking what seam is working. Is it a wobble seam? Should we hold it up dead straight? Like Headingley, can we push it fuller, or do we need to drag our lengths? With Jimmy's experience, that happens within three or four overs, so I would expect the bowlers to be talking all the time in the first hour, just trying to figure out what is happening. It will be our job to get as much out of the wicket as possible."
Where those lines of communication are concerned, England should be well served by the quicks at their disposal, seeing as Broad and Jake Ball have an existing relationship from their time at Nottinghamshire, while both Finn and Roland-Jones play most of their cricket for Middlesex at Lord's and so are well used to the vagaries of the slope. Nevertheless, Broad suggested that the selectors had missed a trick by failing to include Anderson in a 13-man squad, both to give him the chance to play if deemed fully fit, and also to provide the sort of dressing-room know-how that comes from 116 Tests and 454 wickets.
"I would have been tempted," he said. "because at least you have got him around working with the bowlers, and pushing his fitness to play on Thursday. I saw him all last week and he seemed okay, to be honest. He was pretty certain he would be in the squad and I am sure there must have been a huge temptation to have him in the 13, so Jake and Toby could learn something from him leading in to the match. He was with us last year in the Ashes when he was injured, and he was with us in Durban [for the first Test against South Africa in December]."
And despite all his own experience, Broad indicated he too would have benefited from the familiarity of Anderson's presence in the squad, as he recalled the events surrounding that crazy first day at in Nottingham last summer, when Anderson's side strain forced him to miss a Test match for the first time in four years.
"Yes, I was nervous at Trent Bridge," he said. "It was the first time I had bowled the first over in a Test match ever, at 29 years old. That is still different. Especially when, all week, Trevor [Bayliss] had been saying that the opening bowler or batsman sets the tone and that will win us the Test match. That added pressure can either melt you a little bit or get you excited to push you through. Trent Bridge went well, Durban went well, l so hopefully it'll be similar here."
Despite the intensity of the preparations that Pakistan's cricketers have put themselves through since arriving in England, Broad warned that even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry - as England discovered during their whitewashing in the 2013-14 Ashes. And, bearing in mind the reception that he and his fellow players received from Mitchell Johnson et al on that trip, he added that relentless pressure would be the key to success for the bowling attack, especially early in each batsman's innings.
"Misbah hit the nail on the head," Broad said. "When Asians come to England, there are always question marks over their batting, which puts question marks on our bowling unit because those first ten balls at every batter are vital.
"We could go bang, bang and put them under pressure straightaway. But if you bowl long-hop, half-volley, long-hop, they will feel settled and relaxed. I will make a point on Tuesday that we build on what we did in South Africa when AB [de Villiers] or a key batsman came to the crease. You swarm them with four or five slips. If they make one mistake, there is a chance of getting them out.
"If we get Younis [Khan] or Misbah for 0 or 10, that can change a Test match, so I would expect us to swarm key batsmen early just to try and get any mistake out of them.
"We'd be prepared to sacrifice a couple of fours to, maybe, get that nick to fourth slip but, again, if the wicket is not carrying to fourth slip it is not going to work."
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