The scene on the third afternoon at Johannesburg was a familiar one. Stuart Broad was on a roll and the opposition had no answer. The knees were pumping and the face was ruddy, an irresistible force who made wickets rather than runs seem inevitable.
They were, too. Broad took five wickets for one run in 36 balls just after lunch, single-handedly reducing the hosts from 23-0 to 35-5. Another hot streak, another Test won for his team. But how did Broad decimate the hosts? What changed from the first innings?
Being fully fit helped, Broad having struggled with illness on the first day. He lacked zip and was evidently frustrated in not being able to take advantage of helpful conditions. This was reflected by an average speed of 81.9 mph, which increased to 84.9 mph in South Africa’s second innings.
However, his accuracy also improved greatly. All of his 73 balls on day three were either outside off stump or in line with off stump. Nothing on the pads or on the hips for batsmen to work into the legside, unlike in the hosts’ first innings, when 23.3% of his deliveries were on middle or leg stump or down the legside.
Bowling too short is a regular criticism of England’s bowlers and Broad certainly improved where he had initially erred – 74% of his balls on day three were on a good length, up from 37.6% in the Proteas’ first innings.
Faster, more accurate and with greater seam movement – his average deviation off the pitch increased from 0.74 degrees to 0.94 – Broad expertly combined the ingredients that make him so hard to handle.
Broad knows the value in finding the ideal length but has in the past discussed his tendency to ‘float’ the ball too full in trying to draw batsmen forward. There were no freebies as the home side subsided at the Bullring, the ball spitting off a decent length with just the right amount of lateral movement.
|Stuart Broad, 3rd Test v South Africa||1st innings||2nd innings|
|Balls on a good length (%)||36.6||74|
|Balls on / outside off stump (%)||76.7||100|
|Average speed (mph)||81.9||84.9|
|Average length (metres from stumps)||7.74||6.99|
|Stumps (% to hit)||7.46||5.48|
|Average swing (degrees)||1.11||0.95|
|Average seam (degrees)||0.74||0.92|
There was more swing for Broad in South Africa’s first innings, but excessive deviation in the air is not always a major advantage. James Anderson (1.84 degrees average swing) regularly hooped the ball past the outside edge, whilst Broad (0.95 degrees) did enough to bring keeper and slips into play more frequently.
This is what Broad does so well. He identifies helpful conditions and harnesses them superbly, rising to the occasion when he smells blood. His line and length becomes unerring, the batsmen hustled by optimum bounce and lateral movement.
Memories of Trent Bridge were stirred by this latest Broad salvo and it is worth noting that England produced more seam movement in their surge to victory at the Wanderers. South Africa faced an average deviation off the pitch of 0.92 degrees on day three, Australia 0.7 degrees in their 60 all out.
Broad is the session-changer who breaks a partnership and gets on a roll when the game is drifting. He can create something out of nothing when the pitch is flat, but it is just as important to deliver when conditions are helpful and wickets expected. Broad delivers them in abundance, the enforcer turned demolisher.