Broad takes the plaudits
Posted in England v Pakistan (in UAE) 2012
On a day that looked set to be dominated by spin, it was an increasingly reliable seamer who delivered the stand-out bowling performance in Abu Dhabi as the second Test between Pakistan and England got under way.
England’s decision to field two specialist slow bowlers in a four-man attack, for the first time since December 2003, was an understandable discussion point for much of the morning, particularly when Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann each struck prior to lunch on a surface providing appreciable turn.
Panesar and Swann would go on to bowl more than half of the opening day’s 94 overs (yes, that’s right, 94!), the latter finishing with healthy figures of 3-52.
Yet the duo’s worthy efforts were topped by Stuart Broad, who continues to display the impressive form that saw him named as England’s man of the series in last summer’s whitewash of India.
Broad claimed career-best figures of 6-46, including a hat-trick, at Trent Bridge during that rubber, yet it can be argued that today’s performance was no less impressive.
With minimal assistance available through the air or off the pitch at a venue synonymous with substantial first-innings scores, the Nottinghamshire all-rounder posed no end of problems to Pakistan’s batsmen, and on another day could easily have matched the six-wicket haul he achieved on his home ground six months ago.
In maintaining a probing line and length on and around off stump for much of the day, Broad evoked memories of Glenn McGrath, the legendary Australia seamer who enjoyed such great success throughout his glittering career.
And while England’s Twenty20 captain may still have some considerable way to go should he wish to emulate the feats of the leading Test wicket-taker among fast bowlers, he could hardly have done any more since returning to form in the first Test against India last July.
Despite his obvious talent with bat and ball, many observers were beginning to lose patience with Broad after an unproductive spell that saw him claim a mere 10 wickets at an average of 55 in two Ashes Tests and a three-match home series against Sri Lanka.
England’s selectors retained faith in the 25-year-old, however, and he has since picked up 31 scalps at just over 15.
Having often been chastised for not threatening the stumps enough during his lean period, the main factor in Broad’s renaissance appears simple.
By pitching the ball up on a more regular basis, and demonstrating admirable control of line, he has been able to keep batsmen under constant pressure, thereby forcing mistakes in the same way as McGrath did on so many of his 124 Test appearances.
Today, Broad’s initial efforts went unrewarded as several balls narrowly evaded the outside edge.
Yet after lunch, he took centre stage in thrilling fashion, bowling the dangerous Younus Khan with a superb delivery that nipped back and brushed the batsman’s pad before sending the off stump cartwheeling through the air.
Azhar Ali soon departed in similar fashion, Broad providing the assembled photographers with another dramatic image, and a much deserved third scalp was claimed with the new ball in the evening session, when wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal was unable to deal with one that struck him plumb in front.
At stumps, figures of 3-47 from 23 overs represented the least Broad deserved following an admirable exhibition of pace bowling.
England will hope there is plenty more to come.