Stuart Broad – Big Wickets and Series-Changing Spells

On the evening of September 19, 2007 in Durban, this man was smashed across the park for a record-breaking six 6s by Yuvraj Singh, India’s then-upcoming, match-winning left-hand batter. That sort of public humiliation at the raw age of 21 has ended many a career, but not that of Stuart Broad.

For him, it was a beginning, a baptism by fire.

Within 80 days of that incident, he made his Test debut in Colombo, an unremarkable affair where he toiled for 36 overs to return with just one wicket, but since then, he has persisted and never looked back.

He went on to play 167 Test matches during his 16-year career, the fifth most by any Test player, and scalped an unbelievable 604 Test wickets, the fifth most in the history of the sport.

Just behind Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Jimmy Anderson, and Anil Kumble.

That makes him the only other fast bowler in that prestigious list, alongside Anderson, his favourite bowling partner, with whom he bowled in tandem over 15 years. In 138 Tests, including nine Ashes series, they took 1,039 wickets together at 7.53 wickets per match.

This is more than McGrath-Warne, Ambrose-Walsh, Lillee-Thomson, Marshall-Holding, and even the lethal Wasim-Waqar pair.

How special must that feel, and can it get better than that?

As I now close my eyes and replay the 6-foot-5-inch Broad steaming in rhythmically with his signature white headband, what strikes me is his high release point and his ability to get the ball to jump from a length and have the skill to swing it both ways.

His ability to float the ball up and swing it is what ensured that nearly a quarter of his dismissals were caught behind, with him ending as the bowler with the third-most dismissals of that kind. That’s 148 scalps, just four behind the impeccably disciplined McGrath. Of course, credit must also be shared with likes of Matt Prior, Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes, Ollie Pope, Sam Billings and Jonny Bairstow for having held on those induced edges.

As one digs further into Broad’s Test career, it is clearly evident that he loved bowling at home, where he picked up a whopping 398 wickets, 66 percent of his total tally. Unsurprisingly, he was very effective on pace-friendly wickets in South Africa and New Zealand as well, where he picked a wicket every 55-odd balls.

In Australia, his leaked seven more runs per wicket than his usual record, and took 14 more balls to pick a wicket. But he was definitely at his best against the Ashes rivals, as he plucked 153 wickets at an average of 29 apiece, every 55 balls. He has eight five-wicket hauls and one 10-for against Australia.

His career-best figures of 8-15 at his home ground at Trent Bridge was a defining moment in his career. Even though England went into that match with a 2-1 lead, they were without Anderson, who had taken a seven-for in the previous match in Birmingham, but Broad stepped up and ripped apart the Australian batting within 9.3 overs. He removed Chris Rogers and Steve Smith within three balls to set the tone and all eight wickets were caught in the slip cordon, including Ben Stokes taking a screamer off Adam Voges at a fifth slip.


Broad’s Miss Universe-like hand-on-mouth shocked expression became the defining image of the series and his stock reaction thereafter many a time, apart from his running around like a flying machine a la Shoaib Akthar.

Broad is an Ashes legend with 153 wickets across nine series, since the time he got Michael Clarke as his first Ashes wicket in Cardiff in July 2009. He has the distinction of taking the most wickets by an Englishman and is second only to Shane Warne (195) and McGrath (157). In five of those encounters, he ended up as one of the top-three wicket-takers in the series, with at least 21 scalps. With 104 wickets, he is the only Englishman to have taken 100-plus Ashes wickets at home, well ahead of the next best, Sir Ian Botham, who had 78 to his name.

It is not just the volume of wickets but the quality of those he dismissed. He accounted for David Warner a record 17 times, equalling Walsh and Ambrose who made a bunny out of Michael Artherton an equal number of times. Only McGrath and Alec Bedser have gotten someone out more often – Artherton 19 times in McGrath’s case, and Arthur Morris 18 times for Bedser.

The others in Broad’s top five victims list include greats like Steve Smith and Michael Clarke (11 times each), AB de Villiers and Tom Latham (10 times each). He got the better of ABD in 50 percent of their battles, and each of those players have at least 5,000 Test runs and an average higher than 44 in Test cricket. One of them, Smith, averages nearly 59.

Even the likes of Shane Watson, Ross Taylor, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Younis Khan and Ajinkya Rahane struggled to score more than 25 on average against Broad, and the great Sachin Tendulkar averaged 13 against him across the nine innings where he faced him.

A lot of this success against most top-order batsmen has a lot to do with when and how Broad was used by his skipper. From 2014 onwards, between overs 40 and 80, when the ball was soft, the pitch had flattened, with warmer weather and more set batsmen, his workload was 15 percent less compared to before. Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer did the heavy lifting and shared the load.

Also Read: Broad -The Spirited and Indomitable

Even overall, he bowled only about 202 balls per Test, which is about six, five and two overs lower per Test than peers like McGrath, Southee and Anderson. His 33,698 balls were spread over  167 Tests and he utilised the new ball well under conditions that suited him best.

He made the most of this early spells and when he struck, he struck big and bagged wickets in clumps and batches. During India’s 2011, on his home ground at Trent Bridge, Broad broke the back of the Indian middle order dismissing Tendulkar, Yuvraj, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma in quick succession. He eventually ended up with 6-46 but his spell of 5-5 cast a spell on the Indian unit and helped England claw their way back into a Test India dominated for two days. Broad topped the wickets chart in the series and ended with 18 wickets at 13.84 to set the tone for the series where England humiliated the visitors 4-0.

During an even-keel contest at Durham in 2013, Australia were comfortably on their way to chase down 298 in the fourth innings to make a 2-1 comeback in the Ashes, till Broad blew their hopes away with a fiery spell of 6-22, once again in 9.3 overs. Once he got Clarke and Smith bowled, he ripped through the tail in no time. He had already jolted the visitors with a five-for in the first innings.

The following year, when New Zealand visited England, the Broad Effect was in play right away in the very first Test at Lord’s. The visitors were chasing a manageable 239 in the final innings, but Broad’s seam and swing came in the way to spoil the party. His 7-44 once again showed that when he came to the party, he made it count big. England went on to win the two match series 2-0.

He cast this spell outside England too, when in 2016, he embarrassed South Africa in Johannesburg. Hee nailed the mighty top six in that line-up and got them bowled out for 83. The ball that cut through de Villiers to get a nick on its way to Bairstow showed how good Broad could be with the new ball in seaming conditions. England won that match by seven wickets and went on to win the series 2-1.

Broad is part of a rare club of three Test bowlers who have taken two hat-tricks in the format, alongside Wasim Akram and Huge Trumble. And the only one to do so at one’s home ground. His 5-5 spell against India at Trent Bridge included a hat-trick, and he also bagged Sangakkara-Chandimal-Eranga at Headingly in 2014 to complete his second.

And mind you, he was no mug with the bat till a snorter from Varun Aaron at Old Trafford in 2014 broke his nose and shook his confidence whilst holding the bat. In fact, most are not aware that he started his cricketing career as an opening batsman following in the footsteps of Chris Broad, his father. At one point in 2008, the great Geoffrey Boycott had even gone on to make an unfounded comparison of Broad’s batting style with that of Sir Garfield Sobers.

Whilst he didn’t turn out to be the all-rounder he was touted to be and has the unenviable record of the second-most ducks in a career, he does have the distinction of being in the club of players to have scored at least 1000 runs and taken 100 wickets.  For context, he has nearly as many runs as Imran Khan and 1.7x the number of wickets. That’s not bad at all.

In fact, he has thirteen 50s to his name and a mammoth century, the 167 that he scored against Pakistan in the infamous Test at Lord’s in 2010, when, as a No.9 batsman, he stitched together a 332-run stand with Jonathan Trott to rescue England from 102-7.

While his longevity in Test cricket had a lot to do with him dedicating his life to the purest format of the game, it is notable that he has 178 ODI and 65 T20 wickets to his name. He even captained the English T20 team on 27 occasions between 2011 and 2015. Even though he was picked by Kings XI Punjab in a US$400,000 deal, he never played a single IPL game due to injuries sustained during the World Cup.

I am sure Broad had very few regrets about white-ball and franchise cricket when he hung up his boots on the July 31, 2023, after he scripted a fairytale ending that will be hard to beat.

To have the opportunity to take the final wicket on the fifth day of the final Test match of an Ashes series, that pretty much defined his career, at home, in front of his family, to help his team draw the series whilst ending with the highest number of wickets for England, is nothing short of a romantic novel.

This after having hit the last ball of his Test career for a six. What are the odds?

Those six 6s in Durban are a distant memory now. Broad’s legacy will be about his fighting spirit, his match and series-winning menacing spells, his expressions and theatrics that came along with it, the numerous comebacks after injuries and his industriousness to persist and make the most of his natural gifts and limitations.

He was never the quickest, most lethal, or the most accurate, and he knew that.

Like Avis, he tried harder. And he leaves on his terms at his peak, and as a role model for those who believe that attitude and gumption trump talent.

I have no doubt that he will make the most of his second innings in the commentary box, and will tweet away with humour and sarcasm as he watches cricket from his multi-million pound, award-winning pub,

Thank you for the entertainment and lessons in grit and persistence, Nighthawk!

Also Read: Stuart Broad Calls Time on Legendary Career

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