STUART BROAD: It's scoring big runs that will win back the Ashes

STUART BROAD: England have the bowling armoury to get wickets but it’s scoring big runs that will win back the Ashes, not bowling at 90mph

  • England boast a bowling unit that is capable to taking wickets Down Under 
  • If you look at the facts, runs are critical in cricket matches in Australia
  • Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are renowned for big first-innings runs

When we got back into the dressing-room, after the final Test match of the summer against Pakistan was confirmed as a draw and before various players went off to fulfil media duties, Joe Root asked me to say a few words about Jimmy Anderson’s achievement of reaching 600 Test wickets.

It rather put me on the spot but it had been a miserable day weather-wise and one of the questions asked of top footballers is ‘would he be able to hack it on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke?’

Southampton had become cricket’s version of Stoke, it was a Tuesday, and Jimmy had again proved he can hack it among the elite class, so I made those points, told him that he emboides what the team is about and raised a toast to him.

Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson were formidable in Test series against Pakistan

All the lads were keen to get on the M3 after so many weeks in the bio-secure bubble, so a glass of something properly nice will follow in the future, I am sure.

It was brilliant to be out there when the edge from Azhar Ali’s bat flew high to first slip, as it was to be on the field for his other milestones: I remember Martin Guptill being dismissed for his 400 and Kraigg Brathwaite for 500.

When you look back on a career, it’s great to recall those iconic moments, and I was glad he got to his latest landmark before the end of the summer.

When we went to bed on Monday night, Storm Francis was coming in, the rain was horrendous and waking up on Tuesday morning, we couldn’t even see the other side of the ground. So I think Jimmy accepted that he’d be stuck on 599 until next year.

Anderson claimed his 600th wicket when Azhar Ali was caught at slip by Joe Root

He is the first seam bowler in the history of Test cricket to reach 600 wickets – but he is certainly not petering out. He showed he still has the quality by taking a five-wicket haul in the first innings to contribute to Pakistan following on in a match where bowlers generally found things hard going.

There was talk in midsummer of him being past his best but we have a dreadful habit in this country of always looking to the future instead of enjoying what we have. Why can’t we enjoy watching experienced, consistent players performing to a world-class level, and the fact that the England team is winning games?

We need to put to bed this constant desire to look forward to the Ashes in 15 months’ time. In football, we are not talking about who is making the 2021-22 Champions League final.

But if people want to address that particular series, it’s naive of them to be fixated with 90mph bowlers when, if you look at the facts, runs are critical in cricket matches in Australia. 

England boast a powerful bowling unit that is capable to taking wickets Down Under

If you want to know what it takes to win Test matches in Australia, it’s not whether you have someone who can get up to 95mph. Glenn McGrath was still pretty useful coming up to his 37th birthday and bowling at 80mph when his team had 500 runs on the board.

We should take the focus off which bowlers are going to be selected for that series because it’s an irrelevant conversation if you’re going to be bowled out for 200. It’s equally irrelevant if you’re bowled out for 300. You need to be reaching the 400s.

Look back at when England last won there in 2010-11: Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen all got big hundreds, scores of 150-plus. Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior got hundreds, too.

In all three wins, the team batted just once. Jimmy, Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett bowled in the mid-80s and England made big totals.

Whoever we take, we have the talent within the bowling armoury to get wickets. 

Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are the type players renowned for big first-innings runs

Go through the list. Broad, Anderson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Olly Stone, Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson. That is a unit that can take wickets Down Under, but there is no point any of the bowlers getting on the plane if we don’t get 400-plus in the first innings.

And that has become our mindset as a group since Chris Silverwood became head coach 11 months ago. How do we get 400 runs? Who is going to set the platform?

You will have seen that the question has been addressed with the introduction of Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley – the sort of players who are renown for getting big first-innings runs. Sibley has a big hundred this summer, Crawley a huge double and Jos Buttler has been contributing massively down the order. With Joe Root, Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes to factor in, we want to be in a position when we get to that tour where the Australians are thinking ‘these boys can score runs’.

Things are looking positive. We have passed 400 five times – averaging 366 – in 11 completed first innings since Silverwood took over. Those are much improved statistics on our previous output. Under Trevor Bayliss, we had not scored 400 in the previous 22 innings.

Steve Smith has batted against 90mph bowling throughout a career in which he averages the best part of 63. But what he hasn’t done often is go out to bat having been fielding for two days and the opposition having a huge score on the board.

We need that mindset of keeping the opposition out there until the second evening.

The perfect example of that came last week. Crawley hit 267 on what was a flat pitch, but we had Pakistan three down for next to nothing. Not because we had bowlers operating at the speed of light, but because our batsmen drilled Pakistan legs into the ground.

So, if we are focusing on our own Champions League of two seasons away, let’s change the chat because big runs is key to winning back the Ashes.

In the present, we have had two series win this Test summer and it’s a dream scenario to hang up my boots for the season, having had such an effect on the games – 29 wickets at 13.41 runs each – after being left out of that first Test against West Indies.

Without doubt, it’s the best I’ve ever bowled and to be at the peak of my powers at 34 is exciting whatever the future throws up.

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