Cow Corner

Is Broad England’s genuine all-rounder?

Cow Corner

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There are few roles more important and yet elusive then a genuine world class all-rounder.

England have always been more transfixed with the role than most other sides, heralding the status of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff beyond all measure.

Since Flintoff hung up his size 14 boots after the 2009 Ashes, the nation has awaited the next instalment of the all-rounder phenomenon with bated breath. It is an obsession which consumes even the most pragmatic of cricket followers.

Stuart Broad's bowling has improved dramatically since he ditched the ill-advised role of England enforcer and back-of-a-length pounder and sought to emulate Glenn McGrath's penchant for hitting the off stump 'corridor of uncertainty'.

Broad has since enjoyed a stunning spell of form, ransacking India on home soil before producing an unwaveringly consistent set of performances with the ball in the UAE.

The 24-year-old boasts a bowling average of 15.50 over the last six months, taking 32 wickets with a potent strike rate of 40.3 - the stats of a truly world-beating fast bowler.

While the comparisons with McGrath may be unfair and slightly tedious, Broad's metronomic line and length and ability to pepper a nagging area outside the batsman's off stump make the similarities with the great Australia paceman hard to ignore.

With time very much on his side, Broad - under the erudite stewardship of Victorian David Saker - can continue to blossom and hone his skills while ensuring that he does not waver from the fuller length that he has employed over the last six months to such success.

Along with Steven Finn, Broad has been a beneficiary of England's refined strength and conditioning boot camps; the results have been very telling and have seen both bowlers hit 90mph+ with encouraging regularity.

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Having established himself as a world class paceman, the onus has been firmly on Broad to demonstrate his ability with the bat.

Over the last 12 months, Broad averages 40.25 with a strike rate of 90.44 with two of his significant half-centuries having been ended abruptly after being left stranded by the tail.

After Tim Bresnan left the tour of the Middle East with his ongoing shoulder problem, the pressure has been cranked up on Broad to carry England's lower order amid a string of disappointing displays from several frontline batsmen.

Stuart Broad wrestled back a great deal of the momentum for the tourists with his 58 off 62 balls before he was left stranded by the tail, and it said something of the esteem he is held in by the opposition that Pakistan gladly and openly gave him cheap singles with Ian Bell at the other end.

Perhaps the crucial feature of Broad's game which fits neatly in line with that of other big-name all-rounders is his ability to take the game away from his opponents with a touch of the unexpected and the sublime.

England's number eight plundered seven sparkling boundaries, including a belligerent six, in what was a measured, yet destructive cameo to provide the tourists' first innings with a timely fresh impetus.

The frontline batsmen played with a great deal of apprehension and a distinct lack of fluency; Broad demonstrated that it was possible to play with freedom and conviction in unfamiliar conditions.

After stumps, Broad spoke about his intention to "take the game to Pakistan with aggressive, positive batting" and he executed this approach with distinction.

England established a crucial 70-run lead from the first innings, and Broad's contribution - not for the first time - could prove to be the most significant in the context of the match.

With Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson all unable to provide Broad with an accomplice, the Notts man was left stranded at the crease; there is no telling how his innings would have developed with additional support.

England look set to stick rigidly to the balance of their side with six batsmen and four bowlers but, regardless of where Broad finds himself in the order, he represents a significant threat to any side with his wide range of strokes and powerful ball-striking.

Unfavourable comparisons can always be made with those in the pantheon of great all-rounders, but Broad is currently excelling in a successful England side and fulfilling his role in every respect.

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STAT OF THE DAY: Since January 2011, England's tail add on average 50 runs per wicket - considerably more than any other side in Test cricket. Again, lower-order runs proved crucial to the tourists posting a significant first-innings lead.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "Ian Bell seems to be growing a moustache again, the sort of moustache that says 'my middle name is Ronald'." (Patrick Kidd)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "Strauss is a cricketer of the Mike Brearley mould: he's there for his formidable captaincy skills­ predominantly, and occasionally weighs in with a score. With no­ Strauss in the side, England would be lucky to be the fourth best side in the world. Anyone that wants Strauss dropped could clearly write their knowledge of cricket on the back of a­ postage stamp." (Vinay)

SHOTS OF THE DAY: Monty goes in for the flying hug, something which rather stuns a startled Andrew Strauss. A couple of frames later, both had hit the deck.

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Kevin Pietersen decides that the most efficient way of running out Asad Shafiq is to rugby tackle the Pakistan batsman before knocking over the stumps with a diving header. It works perfectly, but for the some reason the umpires took exception to it.

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In stark contrast to every other day of the series so far, the fans turned out in their droves. They didn't just turn up, they also broke the world record for the most amount of people constantly waving for six hours. It was all worth it.

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