x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Broad and Bresnan bring on the smiles for England

Cricketers lift the pall of gloom, and as Paul Radley writes, what better way than a good day at one of their favourite venues.

England's Alastair Cook, second left, celebrates with his teammates after pulling off a spectacular catch to dismiss Ishant Sharma.
England's Alastair Cook, second left, celebrates with his teammates after pulling off a spectacular catch to dismiss Ishant Sharma.

England have been so dominant in their series with India so far this summer that they hardly needed the Edgbaston factor to lift them yesterday.

It was a good job. The ground, which is normally the most raucous in the UK, was notably sombre when Test cricket's two leading sides renewed their quest for No 1 on a cloudy morning in England's Midlands.

Just across the city, the police had begun a murder investigation into the deaths of three men who had been hit by a car as they tried to protect their community from a second night of rioting in England's second city.

Most of the previous night had been played out to the sound of police helicopters above, and wailing sirens on the streets of Birmingham, as they tried to combat the mobs.

While the two international cricket teams were running through their fielding drills on the outfield before the start of the Test, a huge plume of smoke billowed from a blaze at a scrapyard, three miles away from the cricket ground.

On the other side of the new pavilion, which is the centre-piece of a £32 million (Dh190m) ground refurbishment, an advertising blimp, tethered in the neighbouring supermarket car-park, seemed more like a war-time barrage balloon.

Given the prevailing mood, even the ticket touts on the road to the ground seemed more sinister than usual. This hardly felt like the suitable atmosphere for a day of organised loafing.

It is with good reason that many of England's leading players list Edgbaston as their favourite home venue.

Some of the finest feats of English cricketing derring do - such as Ian Botham's spell of five-wickets-for-one-run in 1981, and the seminal 2005 Ashes win - have been prompted by baying supporters in what is now the Eric Hollies Stand.

This time it was the turn of the players to lift the supporters from the pall of gloom, and it was England's who obliged.

They like fast-bowling all-rounders in these parts. For Botham in 1981 and Andrew Flintoff in 2005, read Stuart Broad in 2011.

The fair-haired quick-bowler still has a long way to go to match the popularity of those two forebears, but he is doing his best with his actions in what is becoming a golden Indian summer for him.

Broad was the man-of-the-match in England's comprehensive win in the second Test, and he took all of one delivery to find his groove again after an eight-day break.

The beleaguered Indians had hoped the arrival of Virender Sehwag would help arrest their worrying slide. He lasted just one ball, however, as Broad induced an edge that was caught at the wicket.

Broad and Tim Bresnan, his able ally in the preceding victory in Nottingham, encountered little resistance again here, but when India did briefly fight back, it was the sort of counter-attack which is even appreciated by opposition fans.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni owed India a score. With 1.2 billion supporters to keep happy, the captain rarely needs reminding that their is a burden of expectation on him.

He alleviated some of the pressure with an innings of 77 that could have been described as dogged, were it not for the freedom with which he played his attacking shots.

The man, whose winning six clinched the World Cup for India earlier this year, had found his range again. One crisp drive off James Anderson ended 12 rows back, and he hit two more.

His defiance, and that of the ever-rambunctious Praveen Kumar at the other end, was well received by an increasingly vocal Hollies Stand, but they were still glad to see the back of them both.

England's seamers wrapped up the Indian first innings so quickly, there was even time for Andrew Strauss, the captain, to help himself to his first half-century of the series, as his side zoned in further on the top of the world rankings.

pradley@thenational.ae


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