Sorting by


Stuart Broad made the final Ashes Test all about him just when England needed focus

THE OVAL – A day of wicketless toil before the weather intervened invites the inevitable question, did Stuart Broad hobble the Ashes jet stream with his choreographed retirement?

Had Broad laid waste to the Australian batting on Sunday as fable demanded, the timing of his announcement would not have been an issue. It might be that fate has set aside super Monday for the most glorious of goodbyes. However, with one day remaining and the match in the balance it seems not unreasonable to ask why the need for the theatrical denouement in the middle of the contest?

The match had two days to run when Broad pulled his cracker. Could it not have waited? Would not the end of the match, or 24 hours after the conclusion been good enough?

The moment of his going was always going to be a weighty occasion. Delivering it as he did left him open, as harsh as this sounds, to accusations of conceit. That is not a popular position but a match that still has to be won became more about him and less about the team.

We are talking about professional athletes capable of compartmentalising emotions and bringing a rare focus to events. Nevertheless, outcomes are often decided by fractions. Who is to say that Broad’s decision did not bring about unconscious shifts that impacted England’s prospects negatively, either by disturbing their rhythm or augmenting Australia’s?

It all felt a little cosy, as if events were unfolding according to some preordained schedule. Day four dawning in bright sunshine, England ahead in the match, eulogies to Broad billowing about The Oval. All England needed was to turn up and Australia would fold. If there is a parade upon which to piddle, it is written into the Australian constitution that citizens must do so.

David Warner and Usman Khawaja carried out their duty with enthusiasm, taking the score to 135 without loss when the rain ended play one hour into the afternoon session. Maybe this is how it was always meant to be; Broad called forward for one last ovation with Australia in sight of an unexpected victory.

We are witnessing not just the end of Broad’s career but also of an era. Replacing England’s most prolific seam pairing would have been all-but impossible in any epoch but in this fragmented age of franchise cricket, the conditions in which Test careers might be similarly nurtured no longer exist.

Broad was given the full guard of honour by the Australian team. He removed his hat as a mark of respect as he descended the stairs and paused for a moment to acknowledge the applause. And then the visor came down and we were off. His time at the crease would be all too brief yet long enough to sign off with a six from the fifth ball of the morning, the only addition to England’s overnight total.

Skipper Ben Stokes threw Broad the ball at the start of the Australian innings. He ran in from the Pavilion End a divine wind whipped up by 27,500 beating hearts at his back.

Stuart Broad standing ovation
Broad got a standing ovation from the Aussies as he walked out to bat on Sunday (Photo: Reuters)

Poor Jimmy Anderson. He stood back from the new ball, just as he had during Broad’s grand entrance, allowing his old mate his due. And this on the occasion of his 41st birthday. That’s proper lad friendship right there.

To aide Broad in his quest for the Hollywood ending, the weather gods sent in the clouds to wipe from the spectacle the early morning sunshine. Indeed the lights were on within 45 minutes, but this is sport and none, not even Leviathans like Broad, can control all elements of the match. Australia had their own agenda, and conscientiously set about blunting Broad’s day.

The absence of jeopardy was a central feature. The nearest we came to theatre after Broad’s earlier six was Mark Wood striking the back of Khawaja’s helmet. Khawaja stayed hunched momentarily before removing his lid to allow the standard concussion protocols.

Though the loss of the rest of Sunday to the weather aided Australia’s cause, they did not need saving here as they did in Manchester. What looked like an English romp at the start of play gives way to what might yet be the mother of all Mondays.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button