Hold the obits; save the send-offs - Stuart Broad isn't done yet

Hold the obits; wait with the eulogies; save the send-offs: Stuart Broad isn't done yet.

Broad had been left out of the side for three of England's most recent seven Tests and, with the team management looking at succession planning, it seemed he may be the man to make way permanently in the coming months.

That's understandable, too. James Anderson, with his skills apparently helping him defy the ageing process, is averaging 20.19 with the ball in Test cricket since the start of 2017. England don't want to be in a position where their two opening bowlers finish at the same time and Anderson has made himself indispensable.

There are younger, quicker bowlers for England to look to now. Had Jofra Archer or Mark Wood been considered fit for selection here, there is every chance Broad may have missed out. There was some thought given to selecting Olly Stone, who is a little quicker than Broad, or Sam Curran, who offers some left-arm variation, too. After many years of knowing his place in the side was secure, Broad is suddenly back in the pack, fighting for his place. And, maybe that has been key to his resurgence.

Broad has had some experience of this new reality of late. He spent most of the Sri Lanka tour serving drinks to his team-mates; a task that could have proved hard to stomach for a proud man who is used to star billing. Many bowlers, with miles on the clock and legacies (and stats) to maintain, would have called it a day. It's not as if Broad will struggle for opportunities once his playing career is over; with his looks and eloquence, it is anticipated he will join a broadcaster the moment he walks off the pitch.

But Broad still loves it. And Broad still believes. So instead of moping or moaning, he used those weeks on the sidelines to tinker with his action and shorten his run-up. He reacted to the emergence of Archer by working harder than ever and showed that, even at the age of 33 and with more Test wickets behind him than any England bowler in history except Anderson, the humility and hunger to improve remained.

"The crucial thing in top-level sport is to always look to improve," he said after play on Thursday. "That's been a philosophy of mine ever since Andrew Strauss took over as captain as he wanted his players to do that. And I felt that, aged 32 or 33, it was a good time to give my game a tweak and take it to a different level.

"So I changed my run-up in Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. I wanted to shorten my delivery stride to get a bit more bounce and potentially pace. And I've felt in great rhythm since doing that."

But that was just the start of the change. In recent weeks, he has also taken advice from the Nottinghamshire coaching staff and, in particular, former England head coach Peter Moores.

"Peter and our analyst at Notts, Kunal Manek, came to me three or four weeks ago and told me my leave percentage [deliveries batsmen were leaving off his bowling] was a bit higher than my norm," Broad explained. "So in the last month, I've been challenging myself to make the batsmen play as often as possible. That's been my No. 1 goal. I'm focusing on getting the batsmen to play every ball. And today, my leave percentage was under 15%, which is really low as my average can be between 25-26%. It's a little thing, but it's brilliant coaching and analyst work."

The results were obvious. A harsh (and generalised) interpretation of the characteristics of Broad's recent displays would be a decline in pace and a propensity to squander the new ball through bowling too short. Here, though, his average speed in his first ten overs - 86.54 mph - was his quickest since 2014. And, after starting with the fullest opening over of his Test career, he maintained that length for 31% of his deliveries throughout the day; his average over the last couple of years has been 23%. So even though there was little swing - "we just couldn't buff the ball" - and even though there are no terrors in this surface (ignore the evidence of a scoreboard that read 122 for 8 at one stage; this pitch is fine), Broad's accuracy and seam movement created problems in a batting line-up that, Steven Smith apart, looked surprisingly fragile.

Broad's fuller length directly accounted for three wickets - two leg before and one bowled - and perhaps indirectly accounted for the other two. While Cameron Bancroft could have left the ball he poked to the slips, he had managed just two scoring shots in his first 24 deliveries. He had been drawn forward and made to play so often that he jabbed at one he may have been in a better position - physically and mentally - to leave on another day. Later, Tim Paine, beaten twice by Broad early in his innings, snatched at a rare short ball and hit it directly to the man placed for the stroke.

"I was surprised by the Paine wicket," Broad admitted. "I had a short-leg and square-leg and I was trying to run it back into off stump to bring the short-leg into play. But Moeen Ali, at mid-off, told me Joe Root had asked me to bowl a bouncer. It was quite a slow pitch, so it didn't really get up but Rooty had moved square leg back to the boundary without me knowing and Paine whacked it straight to him. Rooty knew about that plan more than me."

As the day wore on - as Smith settled, the ball softened and the loss of Anderson started to show in the legs of the England attack - Broad's figures suffered. From 4 for 34 at one point, he looked disconcertingly innocuous for a while as Smith heaved him over midwicket for six or drove him back over his head for four.

But he stuck to it. And midway through his 23rd over - only the third time since June 2018 that he has delivered more than 20 overs in a Test innings - he was rewarded with the wicket of Smith that completed his first five-for since April 1, 2018 and his first against Australia since August 2015 and that remarkable day at Trent Bridge. It was also his 100th Ashes wicket.

"With my family history in it, I was always desperate to play in the Ashes and to have played this many series has been special," he said. "There is no better feeling than lifting that urn. It's the pinnacle for an English Test cricketer. It's an honour to have taken that many wickets, but hopefully there are a few more to come.

"Have I felt squeezed out in recent times? No. There are always people after your spot; that's international cricket. But I feel very much part of the team. It's a brilliant culture to be around."

It would be disingenuous to suggest that Archer - and in particular, his bouncers and yorkers - was not missed. Even if Smith handled Archer with comfort, it seems reasonable to presume that Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon may have been hurried and troubled. And even Smith can't score runs without a partner.

But Archer will need support. And, for at least the next six or seven weeks, Broad could still be one of the men to provide it. Still learning, still improving, still taking Australian wickets. Broad isn't done just yet.