Did “clashing ideologies,” as was being said until Ricky Ponting and Usman Khwaja spoke up and hit a discordant note, really “script an epic Ashes” series? Was it, as the Australian duo suggested, a bit of jiggery-pokery which may have sensationally fashioned the result of the Oval Test or was it the eternal “sour grapes” story playing out again?
Stuart Broad is “very confident” longstanding new-ball partner James Anderson will play a “big part” in England’s upcoming Ashes defence in Australia.
Anderson recently turned 35 and there are concerns a five-Test series ‘Down Under’, which starts in November, could be a tour too far for England’s all-time leading Test wicket- taker.
The Lancashire paceman has taken 487 wickets at 27.90 apiece in 126 Tests but his 43 on Australian soil have come at a more expensive average of 38.44, although Anderson was a key member of the England touring side that won the 2010/11 Ashes.
And Broad, speaking ahead of England’s home three-Test series against the West Indies, had no doubt the swing specialist could be a central figure once again, whatever the conditions.
“I’m very confident,” said Broad at an event staged by England-West Indies series sponsors Investec on Monday. “The last couple of years he’s averaging 14 or 15 with the ball in England, so we know how dangerous he is when the ball’s moving around like that.
“But when we go to Australia, the wobble seam he bowls is a great weapon to have in Australia — take (Australia’s) Stuart Clark as an example.
“We’re certainly fortunate to have him going strong and I certainly expect him to play a big part in Australia.”
There was even talk Anderson could double up as England bowling coach if the current incumbent, Ottis Gibson, takes over as head coach of South Africa.
“That was suggested really sarcastically by Jimmy in the changing room,” said Broad. “It would be a tough one for him because he’d have to mit to himself in the mornings which wouldn’t be easy! Jimmy is almost a bit of a bowling coach anyway with his great experience.”
Anderson and Broad are already established as one of England’s greatest new-ball pairings, having taken a combined 720 wickets in 94 Tests together.
Asked about the possibility of extending that figure to 1,000 wickets, Broad said: “It’d be pretty special, but we’d have to see how long the old bloke (Anderson) wants to go on for.
“I’ve been lucky to bowl at the other end to him and I know if I hadn’t done, I wouldn’t have as many wickets as I have got.”
Broad himself is now just five away from surpassing Ian Botham’s mark of 383 Test wickets and so becoming England’s second-most successful Test bowler.
“Obviously he (Botham) is the biggest player English cricket has ever had probably,” said Broad.
“Anyone who’s done what he has against Australia I’ve got a lot of respect for,” added the 31-year-old, whose father Chris, an opening batsman, starred alongside Botham during England’s victorious Ashes tour of Australia in 1986/87.
“He (Botham) has been an inspiration to me in how to take on Australia,” said Stuart Broad, whose childhood years coincided with a prolonged English Ashes ‘drought’.
“I grew up in our era from 86/87 to 2005 when it was horrible watching the Ashes.
“That was an influence on me because it made me very determined that if ever I got the chance to play against them (Australia) we’d have to win.”
While Broad stressed he wasn’t motivated by statistical landmarks, West Indies fast-bowling great Joel Garner — who played alongside Botham at Somerset — was not convinced.
“He’s modest when he says he isn’t thinking as far as getting past the record but I can tell you he’s looking at it,” said Garner, now the West Indies team manager.
Garner, whose 259 Test wickets cost just 20.97 apiece, added: “To get past the landmark is a good thing and it sets the standard for the next person coming up.”