Stuart Broad had an early inkling he was about to deliver another seam bowling special for England after his four-wicket blast brought his team to the brink of a memorable victory.
The 36-year-old seamer rolled back the years to conjure a new-ball spell to sit with his finest work – be it 2009 at the Oval, 2015 at Trent Bridge or 2016 at Johannesburg’s bullring – claiming four for 21 in a hypnotic 10-over stint.
Each of his victims was emphatically clean bowled with Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Tom Blundell unable to keep him out as he created mayhem in the notoriously taxing twilight conditions.
The stage had been set perfectly, England’s second innings wrapping up just as the artificial light began to take hold and make batting a more perilous pursuit, and it did not take long for Broad to set off on one of his trademark hot streaks.
“It almost felt inevitable that we were setting the game up to bowl at the right time. It was all set up for us,” he said. “For me, getting a wicket early always settles me and once I got Conway first I just felt like it could be my day.
“All our conversations throughout the day were not so much about getting runs but about the timing of when to bowl. We knew making early breakthroughs was going to be crucial in the result of this Test match. It’s a different pitch to bowl on under lights.
“I can’t think I’ve done that before (clean bowled four in a row). It was great. I was just trying to take the batter out of the equation.
I just felt like it could be my day
“I sort of ignored who was at the other end and thought ‘if I hit the pitch as hard as possible, at a length I can’t get driven and I can still hit the stumps then I’ll be in the game’.”
As well as giving Broad the belief he needed, the Conway wicket was special for another reason. Having levelled Australian greats Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne as the most prolific partnership in Test history on day two with 1,001 wickets in tandem, James Anderson and Broad have now moved out on their own at the top of tree.
“To go past two heroes of mine growing up – certainly we’re not in their category, the quality of those two – but to be up there with Jimmy, I feel very lucky,” he said on BT Sport.
“I’m very blessed to be in the same era as him.”
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) February 18, 2023
It is a remarkable record, made all the more incredible by what came before – a dreadful run of one victory in 17.
Such is the scale of the revolution that has taken place, in terms of style as well as statistical improvement, Broad suggested it would have been the perfect time for England’s answer to Australia’s behind-the-scene’s TV show ‘The Test’.
“It’s completely unrecognisable. It’s a bit of a shame there’s not a fly-on-the-wall documentary on it because it’s been amazing to be part of,” he said.
“I’m so lucky to see it first hand. Every day Baz (McCullum) walks in he’s like ‘what a job this is. What a gig I’ve got’.
“Everything is positive, it’s not fake. Honestly, since June I can’t remember hearing a negative word in the dressing room. It’s phenomenal to watch up close, how Baz and Stokesy go about their business.”