View from Down Under: Tide turns in Broad’s favour

22 November 2013 2:33 AM

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View from Down Under: Tide turns in Broad’s favour

The England paceman's five-wicket haul helped turn around the Brisbane crowd, who had heartily booed him at the beginning of play, to the point where they actually applauded his final scalp of the day.

And that volte face is mirrored in Thursday's newspapers, with most publications - with the notable exception of the Courier-Mail, whose Broad ban continues to be implemented - coming out in praise of Broad.

I don't hate Stuart Broad. There, I said it. Whether his lethal spell just before and after lunch on the opening day of the Ashes series has set the tone for what's to come this summer is impossible to predict.

But what's clear is the England quick can bowl, can break a partnership, can claim a scalp at a critical moment. Angry fans have every right to sit in their armchairs, throwing a tanty and gnashing their teeth over the fact Broad did not walk at Trent Bridge during the last Ashes series earlier this year. It will be a long, long series.

Broad has been crucified, vilified and pulverised but the indisputable fact is umpire Aleem Dar didn't do his job properly.

The hate went way too far on the first day of the Brisbane Test when The Courier-Mail revealed it would write Broad out of history, promising to only refer to Broad as a ''27-year-old English medium-pace bowler'', and not identify any images of him. Of course, the newspaper is having a laugh. It's typical of News Corp-owned tabloids.

Stuart Broad didn't walk again at the Gabba on Thursday, not as such. He ran, and strode, and leapt, and skipped a little, and sometimes strutted, and walked all over the psyche of Australia, the cricket team and the nation.

[Following the wicket of David Warner] Broad sprinted, and vaulted, and high-fived, and all but clicked his heels, and in the field dived lengthways to save four overthrows, and flounced twice when urging Alastair Cook to refer not out decisions, for he had made himself the central figure this day, and he knew it. When he did walk, it was with his head up and his chest out. In 15 balls, he had cut out Australia's heart, and the Ashes series had picked up where it left off in August.

Not for the first time in sport, a belief [had taken] hold that media and crowd could bully an opponent off his game. Broad's appearance, pale and effete, encouraged them in this belief. But the provocateurs now know what England could have told them, that Broad is not only a formidable cricketer, but revels in his Australian notoriety. Far from bowing beneath it on Thursday, he grew, a feat for a man who already stands 196 centimetres.

It will go down in history as one of the biggest backfires in newspaper history. On Wednesday, Brisbane's Courier-Mail ran a massive front page image of Stuart Broad, who was labelled a "smug Pommy cheat".

On the morning of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba, the host city paper vowed to ban all mention of Broad from Friday onwards and called on fans to give "the medium pace Pom the silent treatment".

But the last word went to Broad, who responded with a match-dominating five wickets during a best-on-ground display that had Australia in trouble at 8/273 by the close of play.

Far from giving the blond bowler the silent treatment, Brisbane fans booed Broad as he took the field then generously applauded the right-hander after he removed Australian Mitchell Johnson for his landmark fifth scalp.

Even the 'Stuart Broad is a Shit Bloke' Facebook page appears to have eased off somewhat in its popularity. Having hit 66,875 likes prior to the start of play yesterday - before Australia were put to the Broad sword - just a handful of others joined in the fun, taking the tally to 67,282 at the time of writing.

Still, there were some positives to be taken by Australia from the opening day of action, not least Mitchell Johnson's performance with the bat. The Aussie quick, oft-maligned by England fans, shone at the crease on his way to a 64 as he helped stave off a nightmare first innings for his team.

Of course the 32-year-old is yet to deliver a ball in anger but if he bowls as well as he batted then Australia remains a chance of winning this Test match. Like Shane Watson, when one area of Johnson's game is shining the other normally catches fire.

His highly composed, intelligent and sometimes debonair knock of 64 yesterday is likely to mean big things are in store when he grabs the new ball at the Gabba today.

Cricketing beauty, like the other forms, is in the eye of the beholder, but I'm happy to declare that the prettiest Australian batsman of the current era is Brad Haddin. There is a lot in Haddin to bring back memories of an earlier model of perfection, Damien Martyn: the even distribution of weight, the steady eyes, the absolute purity of the straight driving.

Yet there's also something elusive about Haddin. On Thursday, his top-scoring unbeaten 78 came in the trough behind a shock wave. Australia's top order were unpadding together, contemplating another collapse; meanwhile Haddin set about renovating the innings unobtrusively, one ball at a time. By the time everyone else's eyes had stopped spinning, he had gathered 50.

Meanwhile, Shane Warne, who allowed himself to get a little distracted from the events on the field of play yesterday when introducing the world to a semi-likeness between Joe Root and Ellen DeGeneres, had his eye back on the ball and was in optimistic mood ahead of the second day of play.


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