Stuart Broad has been stung by his bit-part role in the Ashes but scotched suggestions that he had reached the end of the line with a five-wicket showing in Sydney that helped him “relight that fire” in Test cricket.
Broad has been more discussed than seen prior to the fourth Test, a shock omission in the series opener at the The Gabba and overlooked again for the decisive defeat in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne.
All around Australia – from the home dressing room to the TV studios – his absence has been puzzled over and he forced the issue back up the agenda as he led the England attack at the SCG.
Although the hosts were in control after declaring on 416 for eight, Broad was never far away from the action as he dragged his side into the battle with figures of five for 101.
How and when England will manage the succession from the Broad and James Anderson era has been discussed for years, but for the 35-year-old this was confirmation that he does intend to vacate the stage.
“I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed to miss out in Brisbane and Melbourne… but when you miss out in Test matches, when you don’t play a huge amount, that actually makes you realise how special it is,” he said.
“When I was 26, 27, 28 I sort of expected to play every game and I haven’t done that this last year. When you miss a few, you realise how awesome it is to play again.
“I’ve still got a burning desire to play the sport. I must admit, a few years ago I was umming and aahing and I spent a lot of time talking to my dad (former England opener Chris Broad) about it. He had a great belief that you should play the sport you love for as long as you can. While the fire burns you should play because nothing replicates it in life.
“I think 2021 was my worst year for sure, with the intermittent cricket – I had a play one, miss one type experience – but bowling today made me relight that fire again.
“It’s a great stadium, good atmosphere and I’m bowling at the world’s best… this is what it’s about.”
Broad has now taken 125 Australian wickets in his Test career, third among Englishman, and eight of his 19 five-wicket hauls have come against Australia.
The Ashes dominates the psychology of English cricket like nothing else, but Broad is fired up by the historic contest even more than most.
“Over the years of my career I’ve enjoyed pressure moments, I’ve never sort of shied away from those,” he said.
“There’s no better feeling than to do it in Ashes cricket – whether that’s my upbringing with my old man having had an impact in Australia, I don’t know – but it means the world to me. That’s why I keep chugging in, keep coming for more. It’s quite addictive, that competitive side of the sport and I certainly felt that today.”
While Broad has made his displeasure clear at his prior omissions, he attaches no blame for the hat-trick of defeats to those who played instead. Indeed, he was positively indiscreet in placing the problems at the door of the malfunctioning batting line-up.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter what bowlers you play if you get bowled out for 140. That might be a bit brutal, but that’s the truth in Test cricket,” he said.
“Coming to Australia, first-innings runs are everything. We’ve got 140, 230 and… I can’t remember Melbourne but it wasn’t loads (147, 236 and 185). You can dissect loads on this trip but we’ve failed to deliver that.
“I hope someone is sat here tomorrow having scored a big hundred and answering some positive questions because that has to be our aim.”
Broad also signed off with a warning that English cricket’s recent trend for future-proofing the team through rest, rotation and forward planning may need to take a back-seat to lift flagging fortunes.
“We need a bit of a short-term mindset, in my opinion, because there’s some points to prove for every player,” he said.
“Instead of looking ahead at what’s coming next year, what’s coming in the winter, what’s coming in the next Ashes series, can we get back to the real basics of what’s ahead of us right now? How are we winning this next Test match?
“It’s all well and good planning for the Ashes, planning for the next away Ashes and looking at the World Test Championship, but actually, if you don’t win the battle in front of you, it’s all irrelevant.”