Recent Match Report – Notts vs Warwickshire Group 1 2021

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Warwickshire 201 and 85 for 3 (Hain 20*) need another 248 runs to beat Nottinghamshire 273 and 260 (Clarke 56, Hameed 53, Briggs 4-68, Stone 3-66)

It’s been cold in England in recent days. Horribly cold. There’s been frost on the ground most mornings and a host of games in the first round of Championship action were ruined by snow. Even when the sun has appeared, it’s been accompanied by a wind that feels as if it could rip the skin from your face. Captain Oates wouldn’t venture out in this weather.

But at some stage in the last few days, Stuart Broad decided he’d had his feet up for long enough. He asked the England and Nottinghamshire management if he could return to action early.

He didn’t need to play. He could have sat at home by the fire. He could have come into the ground for a massage and perhaps turned his arm over gently in the indoor nets. He could have returned in another three weeks and still have had time to prepare for the Test series against New Zealand.

But then Broad didn’t need to reinvent himself as a bowler at an age when others might have been thinking of moving into the commentary box. He didn’t need to reassess his career, accept he could no longer rely on the skills that had earned him more than 400 Test wicket and remodel first his run-up and then his modus operandi.

The Broad that ruined David Warner’s 2019 Ashes and dominated the 2020 Test summer was a very different beast to the one that helped England to the Ashes in 2009. Perhaps a little of the pace had gone. But he had recovered his outswinger. He had learned to master the wobble-seam. He had accepted that he was, in essence, no longer an outright fast bowler but a pitch-it-up wicket-to-wicket seamer with a decent bouncer when required.

It takes a certain hunger to go back to basics when you have a reputation as one of the world’s best bowlers. A certain humility, too. And, most of all, a love of the game. A love of the battle, a love of the team environment and a love of the club where he once watched his father play. Broad knows he’ll never have a better job. He looks determined to enjoy every moment of it.

‘Wait there,’ you might be thinking. ‘He’s only doing what he’s paid to do.’ And it’s true, up to a point. But fast bowling is hard. It jars ankles, knees and hips. It tears out toenails and pulls skin off heels and soles. Fast bowlers have feet that would turn a billy-goat’s stomach. Broad did not need to be here and it says speaks volumes for his commitment that he is.

This spirit of self-improvement may well have been inculcated into the England side by James Anderson. Very few fast bowlers have improved in their late 30s. But Anderson has endured rehab and flat pitches to reach a new level of expertise at an age when previous generations of seamers were growing fat and flabby. All those vying to play alongside him have been left in no doubt as to the standards required.

Broad hasn’t just been easing his way into action here, either. He has demonstrated the same sense of urgency as if the crowd had been full and the Ashes on the line. He’s demonstrated the same sense of certainty in his appealing, the same aggrieved sense of shock when a decision goes against him. Maybe, by his high standards, he might have wanted to make the batsmen play a bit more often. Maybe, by his high standards, he slipped onto the legs a little more than he would have liked.