Recovering Stuart Broad has his sights set on key opening Ashes Test

England stalwart has resumed bowling and his research tells him that a lack of express pace may not cost his side in Australia

Stuart Broad has had a lot of time on his hands these past two months, while he has been nursing the torn calf muscle that meant he played in only the first Test of the series with India. Judging by the way he spoke during a grassroots cricket event run by LV in Leyton on Friday, he has put it to good use plotting how to go about his comeback in Australia.

Broad has clearly been reading up on the ructions between the Australia players and their coach, Justin Langer. “Our sole focus has to be on Brisbane. The Gabba holds the key to the series, if we’re 100% on the money in the first Test we can put this Australian team under pressure, on the field,” he says, then adds, pointedly: “And off it.”

Broad has been back bowling for two weeks now, working at about 80% of what he is capable of. He has not bowled at a batsman and will not until the team get to Australia “because I can’t control my competitive instincts, so if I get whacked through the covers and I try a bit hard I might put myself in sort of danger”.

The tear was so bad that for the first two weeks he was not able to get up off the sofa, but the wound was at least clean, which means it has healed well. It was hard going, though. He spent countless hours walking up and down in a swimming pool, 7,000 steps a day, building up the new tissue in his calf.

He says the break has done him good, that he is feeling “fit, mentally fresh and ready to hit the ground running”.

By the time the series starts it will have been four months since he bowled in a Test, but he takes consolation in the knowledge it has been a lot longer still since the men he will be bowling to have batted in one. Australia have not played a Test since January.

“It will be a fascinating series, because it will be so unpredictable,” he says. “There’s going to be a lot of players that are going to be searching for a bit of match readiness, the Aussies haven’t played for a great deal of time.”

Some of the time on his break was listening to audiobooks, a lot of the rest of it he was thinking about the data he got England’s bowling coach Jon Lewis to send him.

“I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, I’ve had him send every wicket taken by right-arm bowlers over the wicket to right-handers and every wicket taken by right-arm bowlers around the wicket to left-handers in Australia in the last six years,” he says.

Stuart Broad (right) with Mark Wood
Stuart Broad (right) with Mark Wood, England’s fastest bowler. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

“In England we talk about needing express pace in Australia, but that’s not what I’m seeing from the research I’m doing. What we need is relentlessness with the ball.”

Which, he says, is what England have. “If you look at our bowling armoury there is no way we’re going to blast everyone out, because realistically we’ve only got Mark Wood that bowls over 90mph. So we have to use what’s in our armoury, and that is relentlessness, guys who move the ball consistently.”

It would help if Jofra Archer was with them, “but if you look, it is Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander who have got brilliant records there recently. It’s about the whole bowling unit bringing the stumps into play, repeating it and repeating it and repeating it for long periods of time, that’s how you get success in Australia. So I’m not too worried.”

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Not worried about that or about whatever the quarantine regulations are or whether Ben Stokes is able to join the tour. You sense, listening to him, that he is thinking of the 2017-18 tour, when England allowed themselves to be distracted from what really mattered, which is how they played on those first five days. He is determined not to make the same mistake again.

Stuart Broad was speaking at the LV= Insurance “In With Heart” Tour, showcasing recipients of #Funds4Runs grants, a £1m joint initiative between the ECB and LV= Insurance to support grassroots cricket. Visit lv.com/gi/cricket

Contributor

Andy Bull

The GuardianTramp

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