Stuart Broad has been backed by captain Alastair Cook to lead the attack in the absence of James Anderson as England try to show they can win a major Test match without their all-time leading wicket-taker. (Full Coverage of Ashes 2015)
Anderson has been ruled out of Thursday’s fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, Broad’s home ground, with a side injury suffered during England’s convincing eight-wicket win over Australia in the third Test at Edgbaston last week that put them 2-1 up in the five-match series.
That match saw Anderson take an Ashes-best six for 47 in Australia’s first innings as he again underlined his worth to England. (Broad Eager to Lead England Attack in Anderson’s Absence)
Since March 2008, when Anderson and Broad replaced Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison in Wellington, England have played five Tests without Anderson, winning two, losing one and drawing two — with both of those victories coming away to lowly Bangladesh. (Broad Wary of ‘Dangerous’ Clarke)
No wonder many Australia players have likened Anderson’s injury to the moment Australia pace great Glenn McGrath trod on a stray ball before the start of the 2005 Edgbaston Test and was ruled out with an ankle injury which also sidelined him from the fourth Test of that series, at Trent Bridge.
England won both matches McGrath missed that series as they regained the Ashes 2-1.
Broad, however, is no callow novice, with the 29-year-old having taken 299 wickets in 82 Tests.
“I don’t think there’s been too many cases in history where a guy has 299 wickets and played 80-odd Tests and he’s waiting to lead the attack,” Cook said Wednesday.
“It’s a great moment for him in terms of his homeground and stuff.
“Clearly Jimmy is going to be missed, we can’t sit here and deny that.
“You don’t play forever and think ‘who is irreplaceable’? There’s always someone who can come in.”
Middlesex fast bowler Steven Finn was the man who stepped up at Edgbaston, marking his first appearance at this level in two years with a Test-best six for 79 in Australia’s second innings after replacing the injured Mark Wood.
Now Durham quick Wood in turn is set to replace Anderson provided he passes a fitness test on a longstanding ankle problem.
As for the comparison between McGrath’s plight a decade ago and Anderson’s situation now, Cook ‘blocked’ that question with all the determination you would expect from an experienced opening batsman.
“I suppose it has its similarities in one sense,” he said. “But we don’t know how the result is going to go.”
Meanwhile Broad said Wednesday he did not aim to alter his game too much in Anderson’s absence.
“That (leading the attack) doesn’t change my role particularly,” the Nottinghamshire paceman explained.
“It will be important the bowling unit talk proactively in this game and that is what I will try and lead. That is what Jimmy and I do naturally so I will have to be a bit more conscious of that this week.”
Broad urged England as a whole to concentrate on their own game saying undue focus on Australia had probably contributed to the hosts’ 405-run defeat in the second Test at Lord’s.
“Cooky has made it quite clear it is all about us this week,” said Broad, the son of Ashes-winning former England opener Chris Broad.
“We had a great week at Cardiff (where England won the first Test by 169 runs) and, looking back, maybe in our minds was the thought that the Aussies would come back hard at us.
“We have to just focus on what we have to do.”