Stuart Broad on why England’s Plan B is actually correct

England’s bowling plan for the Ashes tour had been four years in the making, ever since their last winless campaign Down Under. This time, England would ditch their traditional forensic seam approach and try to have bowlers capable of blasting out their hosts with the type of aggressive pace the Australians, from Jeff Thomson to Brett Lee and Mitchell Starc, have shown can be destructive on flat pitches with the Kookaburra ball.

Then those plans were ripped up. Elbow and back problems ruled out Jofra Archer and Olly Stone from the series, leaving Mark Wood as the only Englishman left who regularly bowls above 145 kilometres per hour – something his fragile body will not be expected to do in every one of the five Tests.

Long-time England teammates James Anderson (right) and Stuart Broad will lead the tourists’ attack this summer.Credit:Getty Images

Instead of opting for a wildcard in talented quick Saqib Mahmood, head coach Chris Silverwood was forced to change tack. “Every plan has got to be adaptable,” he said.

Hence, it is back to the old approach. The attack will again be led by James Anderson, 39, and Stuart Broad, 35, with Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Craig Overton and Wood battling to play the supporting roles. Injuries have forced the selectors’ hands, but England fans might think they have seen this before.

Silverwood could be forgiven for attempting to show a brave face, but Broad insists recent statistics suggest England’s Plan B is actually the correct method for success in Australia.

“I’ve been doing quite a bit of research and looking at every right-arm-over wicket to right-handers and every right-arm-round wicket to left-handers that have fallen in Australia in the last six years,” he said. “We often, in England, talk about express pace, but that’s not what I’m seeing. It’s relentlessness with the ball. It’s [Glenn] McGrath-like that you do for a long period. It’s not bowling bad balls and releasing the pressure.

“[South African seamers] Kyle Abbott and [Vernon] Philander have got brilliant records there. It’s bringing the stumps into play and, as a whole bowling unit, repeating it, repeating it and repeating it for long periods. That’s how you get success in Australia. So I’m not too worried.

“Obviously it would be great to have Jofra Archer there, but you need to move the ball and need to be relentless. That’s what we’ve got to aim to do.

“It’s no good us saying we’re going to blast everyone out, because realistically we only have Mark Wood who bowls over 90mph, so we have to use what’s in our armoury.”

This will be Broad’s fourth Ashes trip to Australia, with 5-0 and 4-0 defeats following a rare success in 2010-11. He has not played since picking up a calf tear after the first Test of this summer’s series against India, but says the lack of Test cricket in the build-up to the Ashes – with many players at the Twenty20 World Cup – does not put him at any disadvantage.

“It was a bad calf tear, but it was a clean one,” said Broad. “I knew it was pretty bad news when I couldn’t put any weight through my foot. I’d say it was probably harder for my fiancée, Mollie, than me because I couldn’t even get a cup of tea – I was just lying on the sofa watching the cricket.

“I’ve been back bowling for two weeks now. This Ashes series there are going to be a lot of players searching for a bit of match hardness and match readiness. The Aussies haven’t played for a great deal of time and we’ll have had guys playing T20 cricket or some guys not having played since September, so I don’t feel like I’m behind the eight-ball at all.

“I actually feel like I’m approaching the series fit, fresh and ready to hit the ground running. I’m not going to bowl at a batter until we land in Australia, just because I can’t control my competitive instinct, so if I get whacked through the covers and try a bit hard I might put myself in danger.

“I’m not at 100 per cent yet, but I don’t need to be. I’m building my body up slowly and gradually.”

England have won just one of their past nine Tests, while Australia have barely played the longest form of the game recently, losing at home to a shadow India side in their only Test series since January 2020.

The hosts have been attempting to halt a slide into crisis, with Cricket Australia forced to give Justin Langer a vote of confidence in August after multiple reports of senior players at breaking point over the head coach’s abrasive style. Asked for his take on Australia’s troubles, Broad declined the chance to be dragged into a verbal war.

“We need our sole focus to be exceptional for [the first Test in] Brisbane,” he said. “They play well there, they have got a good record there and we need to start the series well. I’d argue we’ll be in a better place than Australia, just because we’ve got a bit of cricket to fall back on.”

The Telegraph, London

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