Cow Corner

How good can Broad become?

Cow Corner

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One of the few positives on a trying day for England at Lord's was Stuart Broad's four-wicket haul, taking him to 11 for the match.

It was the first time the big paceman has reached double figures and marked the latest stage in his development from streaky 'enforcer' to genuine strike bowler.

While James Anderson and Tim Bresnan bowled well without reward, Broad seems to possess an uncanny knack of knocking batsmen over.

One more victim would have pushed his career bowling average under the magical 30 for the first time. Instead it stays at 30.12, but the trajectory of Broad's career suggests it will not stay there for long.

At 25, he already has 158 wickets from his 46 Tests. At that rate he would need a further 66 matches to break Ian Botham's English record of 383 wickets.

But Broad is speeding up, and such is his progress he could reach Botham's mark in a similar time to the great man, who played 102 Tests.

Stuart Broad career stats

Predicting the future is a business fraught with danger. Broad turns 26 next month, and the world of modern fast bowling is an attritional one.

Nearly all of England's best seamers of recent years have seen their Test careers cut short for one reason or another.

Matthew Hoggard (67 Tests, 248 wickets), Darren Gough (58 Tests, 229 wickets), Steve Harmison (63 Tests, 226 wickets) and Andrew Flintofff (79 Tests, 226 wickets) might all have expected to play longer, but were halted by either injury, poor form, or both.

Broad's batting insulates him somewhat from iffy spells with the ball - a number eight who averages over 28 with the bat is a useful commodity indeed.

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So, let us make an estimate of 10 Tests per year until 2017 (when he will be 31), at a rate of 4.5 wickets per Test - not a rate contingent on improvement; it is actually fewer than he has managed in the last 18 months.

With 45 wickets per year, where will that leave him?

As you can, see that rate of wicket-taking would take him to 402 in Tests, beyond Botham and to 12th place overall, just in front of Makhaya Ntini and just behind Curtly Ambrose.

All-time leading wicket-takers.

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It would give him a further 55 matches (five more this year, 10 in each subsequent year), taking him to a round century.

Broad has never struck Cow Corner as a genuine all-rounder. His batting has always seemed slightly over-rated, a consequence of the desire to anoint him the next Botham or Flintoff.

But that is a debate for another day. What his recent progress with the ball means is that, irrespective of what he does with willow in hand, Stuart Broad has a shot at becoming England's greatest Test bowler.

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