STUART BROAD: Joe Root's shots keep an oldie like me spellbound

STUART BROAD: Call of Duty is a blast but it is Joe Root’s shots that keep an oldie like me spellbound! His innings against Sri Lanka was one of the best ever by an English batsman in Asia

  • The third innings of this Test was more like we expect when coming to Sri Lanka
  • England are in a very privileged position to see the work of Joe Root first-hand
  • I feel privileged to play in the same era as Root like I did with Jimmy Anderson 
  • Having Moeen Ali back from his 13-day quarantine was a big lift for everyone 

As a Test cricketer you want to play every single match and you never want to be told you are the one to be left out. Conditions in Sri Lanka don’t tend to suit seam bowlers closer to seven foot than six, though. So was I surprised to be selected for the first Test match of this winter? No.

Because last summer, I consistently took wickets. I am the leading wicket-taker in the World Test Championship and I’ve almost been in the form of my life over the past 18 months.

On the flip side of that, however, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d been left out here in Galle.

England are in a great position against Sri Lanka in part thanks to Joe Root’s double-century

It was quite clear ahead of this two match series that I would play one match and Jimmy Anderson would play one match. Of course, that could change but that was what we had in our heads.

We have Jofra Archer, and Ben Stokes coming back for the tour of India and so we will have a different looking side again there.

With conditions here not overly conducive to seam, my goal has been to play two out of six Tests here and with a good run of form I might play three.

I’m using the rest of my time to try to improve as a bowler and working on my fitness with half an eye on the rest of the packed test match calendar ahead.

How they fell into my trap

The third innings of this Test was certainly more like what we would expect a contest to be like out here in Sri Lanka.

Test players don’t tend to make the same mistakes twice – that’s why they are playing for their countries – so we were prepared to work very hard to take 10 wickets second time around.

Admittedly, it was very satisfying to take three wickets in the first: it doubled my tally for Tests in Sri Lanka, and is the equivalent of six elsewhere around the world, I reckon.

As a seam bowler in England, you look to bring the batsman forward and get the slips and wicketkeeper into play but that’s not your modus operandi out here. It’s about variation of pace and being skilful. I decided the night before the game that when I first bowled to a right hander, I would try to bowl my quicker ball outside off-stump, followed by the leg cutter in a bid to draw the batsman into the stroke.

Very rarely do plans like that to come to fruition, so it was pleasing when I delivered it perfectly and Kusal Mendis nicked behind.

Stuart Broad says it was ‘very satisfying’ to double his tally for wickets in Tests in Sri Lanka

Equally so with the ‘team’ wicket that got us started with the dismissal of Lahiru Thirimanne on that first morning. In the warm-up game we had in Hambantota, we trialled a leg-gully position and bowled to a middle and leg or leg stump line.

Batsmen said that they found it quite hard to control whether the ball went in the air or not, and so we went with it.

It felt like it offered a threat for lengthy periods and potentially that’s something we could take forward to Indian venues like Chennai, if pitches are similar. These are very alien conditions for us and therefore communication between us is everything when it comes to sharing experiences and knowledge of conditions.

It’s one of the reasons we’ve brought over people like Jacques Kallis. He achieved so much as a player in lots of matches here and you have to listen to someone who scored so many runs in Sri Lanka.

Privileged to be in Root era

Joe Root’s innings was one of the best by an England batsman in Asia. He has worked incredibly hard this winter and as team-mates we are in a privileged position being able to see that work first hand.

He’s been quite open about the fact that over the past 12 months he hasn’t scored the runs he would have wanted to but I’m a believer that the game pays you back what you put in and he’s been paid back with a fine double hundred.

For someone of his stature – 98 Test matches, a World Cup winner, England captain – to put in so many hours developing his game tells shows you why he is where he is and why he’s so respected in our changing room.

All our players hung on his every run this week. We have a youngish group and he has such an influence on it.

Some of batsmen are in awe of how skilfully he is playing: you can almost see Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence grew in confidence watching him going about his business. Even the old buggers like me and Jos Buttler were saying to each other: ‘how good is it to have this bloke in our team?’

Broad described it as a privilege to play with Root, much like his team-mate Jimmy Anderson 

I’m sure Indian players feel the same about Virat Kohli; New Zealanders with Kane Williamson. I’ve said a few times over the years how privileged I have felt to play in the same era as Jimmy Anderson and I can say the same thing about Joe.

Over recent months, he has made a few changes to these trigger movements but I would say this particular innings was above all a tactical masterclass. He worked out what shots he could score with on this pitch, and predominantly played off the back foot through the offside or swept the spinners, executing the strokes immaculately.

It was like watching a Mahela Jayawardena double, a player in mastery of his own conditions, and that’s the biggest compliment I could pay him.

Let’s not forget Joe didn’t play in South Africa earlier this winter and so he’d not had a visit to the middle since September. That shows a high skill level to be able to pick up like that.

Isolation’s big test mentally

Having Moeen Ali back after 13 days of quarantine was a great lift for everyone. We were all in touch with him throughout, and we’re very proud of how he dealt with the situation.

He’s always a fantastic guy to have around the group and is someone who could play a major part in our next six weeks.

Spending two weeks in a hotel room might take some recovering from not only from a physical point of view – building up workloads in the nets again to be ready for international cricket – but also a mental one.

Moeen Ali has returned to the bubble after he spent 13 days in quarantine due to Covid-19

Firstly, you are away from your family, but you are then also away from your team-mates too. When I first played international cricket, it used to be the case that we would all meet downstairs in the bar for a beer. That’s the way we kept in touch outside of game time.

Now Call of Duty is the absolute king not only for something to play, to keep the mind occupied in downtime, bit for social contact. In bubble life it has become our primary form of communication.

We’re not really allowed around the hotel at the moment, because there have been a couple of cases of Covid within the staff, and that means following strict protocols – wearing masks everywhere, eating dinner alone and then heading back to our rooms. COD gives us a chance to chat.

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