The absence of the injured Jimmy Anderson from England’s next two Tests against Sri Lanka, at Lord’s and at the Rose Bowl, could be the catalyst for the final growth to cricketing maturity of Stuart Broad.
There were signs at Cardiff that some of Broad’s rustiness with the ball was being rubbed off following his injury-stricken winter and a tentative comeback to first-class cricket with Nottinghamshire in the past month. Now, with Anderson out, it will fall to Broad – who will be 25 in late June – to assume the mantle of leader of the pack.
Maturity on the field will complete Broad’s journey these past few years from highly-promising youngster to fully-fledged Test match cricketer, and his appointment as England’s Twenty20 international captain will be helping him to move to that next level in stature.
In a three-pronged pace attack alongside Chris Tremlett and probably Steven Finn, it will be down to Broad to lead the line and I believe that he will relish this extra responsibility. He will be hostile with the new ball and he will be ready for the challenge.
Sri Lanka’s performance in the opening Test at Cardiff was nothing short of diabolical. To lose the game in that way on the last day was a poor reflection of their lack of preparation and their mind-set on the day.
From what I have been told, the Sri Lankan players turned up on the Monday not wanting to play and not looking to play. They turned up at the ground later than they should have done, around 1pm, and clearly their mental approach to the task of saving the game and moving on to Lord’s level in the series was totally inadequate.
Yes, big credit to England and their bowlers – even without the injured Anderson – for creating pressure and getting in amongst Sri Lanka but it was nowhere near Test-class batting by them and it was very sad to see.
I just hope they are not so lackadaisical at Lord’s, because everyone will now want to see a proper Test match contest in what should be a great occasion in fine weather, and before good crowds: in short, the real start to the international summer.
I would expect Finn to come in for the injured Anderson, as it is his home ground and because he has been bowling well for Middlesex and in practice. Jade Dernbach will, however, gain a lot from his call-up and being involved in England’s Test dressing room.
There has been some comment about England’s decision to go with just four specialist bowlers, but at 1-0 up that is a debate which has been put on the back burner. England’s batting looks strong, and all they need to do now to win this series is continue to post big scores and the result will look after itself.
For the life of me, meanwhile, I cannot understand the criticism for supposed slow scoring that seems to have gone Jonathan Trott’s way in recent times; what on earth do people want? Trott is someone at number three that England have badly needed for a number of years, and there is now a much better balance to the batting line-up than there has been in the past.
Alastair Cook and Trott provide the solidity and ultra-dependable approach which allows England to set up positions of strength. Andrew Strauss, too, can play that role although in the past year or so he has deliberately initiated a more aggressive approach at the top of the order which provides some counter-balance to Cook and Trott.
Ian Bell is a class act in the middle-order, and with flair players like Kevin Pietersen – who needs a score at Lord’s – and Eoin Morgan, plus Matt Prior, there is no shortage of power in England’s batting department.
It must be daunting for the Sri Lankans without Murali or Malinga to go up against England’s batting line-up and know that somehow they have to take 20 wickets to win a Test.
*John Emburey played 64 Tests and is a former England captain