Small changes make a big difference for Broad and England
Stuart Broad is standing at the top of his mark at the Pavilion End at Lord's. It may as well be called the Jimmy End, so iconic is the sight of Anderson running in with the egg-and-bacon ties, the red bricks and the turrets behind him.
The Nursery End is Broad's end, galloping in and using the upward slope in a way he knows will bring the lbws and broken stumps into play. But Root has given him a shot at life from Jimmy's End. He feels good. Really good. Earlier in the day, during the lunch break, Paul Farbrace, the England assistant coach, had said to him: "This could be number eight today." Broad has seven five-wicket haul single spells in his Test career. He thinks 'Farby' could be right.
Broad has bowled three balls in the seventeenth over, his first from the unfamiliar starting point. The first is full, almost a yorker, and Cheteshwar Pujara wafts and misses; the second is on a length, just outside off, and Pujara pushes it through point for a single. But the third ball to Ajinkya Rahane has 'that bounce' as Broad calls it: it jags back in off the seam and climbs sharply; pressing forward, Rahane gets an inside edge that squirts down to fine leg. Rahane gets a single but Broad has got his number.
Before his next delivery, Broad walks over to Joe Root. "Wow, I feel great here," he says. He's hoping for a long spell. He's about to have a great spell. A Broady Special. The Wanderers 2016, Trent Bridge 2015, Lord's 2013, The Oval 2009. That's just a few of them.
From then he runs in with the wind behind him, as well as the egg-and-bacon ties, as fit and strong and fluid as he's ever felt, the modifications to his action allowing him to bowl faster than he has in seven years. Rahane soon falls. So do three more. Seven overs, four maidens, 4 for 7. Time for tea.
It says something about Broad's standards and hunger that he is a little disappointed in that spell at Lord's. He took four wickets but he feels it should have been six or seven. He was on a hat-trick at one point and, with all the fielders up in a thrilling umbrella formation, he bowled probably the worst ball of his spell. Only four bowlers have two hat-tricks to their names: Hugh Trumble, Jimmy Mathews, Wasim Akram and Broad. How dearly he would love to be the first to claim a treble.
Broad is having the best home summer of his career in terms of average. It comes on the back of 2017 which was his worst year in Test cricket since the early days of his career. According to Cricviz his average speed in Tests this year is 84.2mph (135.52kph), the fastest he has bowled since 2011 and the second fastest in his career. The changes made after a disappointing Ashes tour seem to have borne fruit, along with stretches where he has been able to rest his body. It is also illuminating that after the Ashes Broad went away and worked on his action alone, sending videos of himself to the coaching staff to demonstrate the changes. He has adjusted his front foot and is now more upright at the point of delivery, meaning his wrist is straighter and he is able to generate more pace and bounce.
"I think the tweaks in my action in February have helped," Broad told ESPNcricinfo. "I'm actually near to my fittest I've ever been throughout my career. Running fit, my fat percentage, all that sort of thing is really good at the minute. I feel fresh and fit and I think that's a little bit down to me not having overplayed in the past year I suppose.
"I mean this is a bit of a strange summer isn't it? Finishing against Pakistan on the second of June and not having another Test until the start of August so I don't feel tired I feel fresh, excited, every time I get the ball in my hand so maybe that has got something to do with it.
"But my action feels good. I'm not someone who looks to swing the ball away majorly. I like to wobble the ball away from the batsman and have that inswinger as a surprise, so my action fell into a place that wasn't good enough in Australia, I think, and I didn't get any bounce and that's the big thing for me. I need that bounce from length to bring the edge into play and I've got that this summer.
For some time now England have tried to adopt the idea of 'passing on' bowling spells to keep the final overs of a spell tight and maintain pressure on the batting side. It's easier said than done, of course, but after their drubbing by New Zealand in the first Test in Auckland in February the bowlers had a meeting and discussed how they could use their individual strengths to nail the tactic. It appears to have been a turning point. The Test after in Christchurch, though England couldn't force victory, Broad took his first five-wicket haul for more than two years. The conditions in the past two Tests against India have helped but Broad feels the philosophy, pushed by Root on the field, has changed the thinking of the bowlers in a particularly effective way this summer.
"One thing I've noticed with this bowling attack with the first four innings we've had in this series we've been relentless," said Broad. "We're talking about passing spells on, not just bowling your six or seven and 'oh let's search for a wicket in the last two or three, oh I've gone for two boundaries, oh well someone else will have a go'."
"We're disciplined with the amount of good balls we're bowling, we're giving no free boundaries away, we build the pressure and hand on the spell to the next bowler and the next bowler comes on with the pressure built so the chance of getting the wickets straight away is there.
"Whereas if you're getting it wrong as a bowling group you might bowl your four or five overs, you've got one-for and you think, 'well I want two wickets here'. You try your inswing, you try your outswing and you go for eight in your last and then you hand it to the next bowler and they've got to build pressure from ball one. So we're having consistent pressure. And we talk about that as a group.
"Joe's been brilliant with his captaincy and saying right this is your last over: make it strong, almost like make it a maiden and pass it on to maybe Woakesy or Sam. With that clarity it allows you to create pressure for two hours of a session and that's something that's been very noticeable for me: that sometimes maybe in the past two or three years we've not managed to do. We've not passed spells on to the next bowler and we've maybe had pressure for 45 minutes and then lost the next hour. So it's something that we're discussing and something that Joe's been very clear that he wants that sort of collective pressure and we're delivering it."
How much would Broad like to deliver it at Trent Bridge, his home. Here the Pavilion End is his, not Anderson's. One of his two hat-tricks has come at this ground, against India in 2011. And his spell of 8 for 15 against Australia in the 2015 Ashes will be seared in the memory of all who saw his open-mouthed, hands-clapped-to-face reaction when Ben Stokes outrageously caught Adam Voges at gully.
The Oh My Broad moment in just one of those special spells.