Broad produces his latest epic spell
Alastair Cook, England’s victorious captain, said that his players could take pride in a complete team performance after a stunning second-innings bowling display, led once again by Stuart Broad, delivered a remarkable seven-wicket win at Johannesburg, and a first overseas series victory since the tour of India in 2012-13.
Cook top-scored with 43 in the run-chase, as England hunted down a target of 74 in 22.3 overs to secure an unassailable 2-0 lead with only next week’s fourth Test at Centurion to come. Afterwards, he paid tribute to Broad’s skill and stamina, after an incredible afternoon spell of 5 for 1 in ten overs had sent South Africa tumbling to 83 all out.
However, Cook admitted that Broad’s off-colour performance on the first day of the contest – when he, along with many of his team-mates had been feeling the effects of a stomach bug – may have been a factor in his determination second-time around.
“At the beginning of the day, we were talking positively about how we were going to win the game, and Stuart was really on it,” Cook told Sky Sports. “I don’t know if he was disappointed at not feeling well on the first day, rushing off to the toilet, but I think he thought the other bowlers carried him even though he bowled 17 overs [in the innings].
“He just thought ‘this is my time’ and jeez, he bowled well,” Cook added. “We knew that, on this pitch, if you could hammer it down on the top off stump at good pace with the brand new ball, and make them play, it would be really hard.”
Broad, who has now claimed five wickets in a single Test spell on a remarkable seven separate occasions in his career, said that the Wanderers surface was the sort he would like to pick up and take with him everywhere he played, as he finished the match on 330 wickets, five ahead of Bob Willis in third place on England’s all-time bowling list.
“The air’s a bit thinner here so a ten-over spell is probably a bit much,” he said. “But I got in a rhythm from the far end and it was a good day to bowl, the wicket offered a little off the seam and in the air, and for a 6 foot 6 bowler there was a bit of bounce there as well. I wish I got to take that wicket around with us most places, that’s for sure.
“I was a little bit under the weather [on the first day],” he admitted. “I think most of our fans and players, everyone we know has been ill in the last few weeks. But fortunately the doctors got me over it pretty quickly, and the guys bowled well on that first day to cover my absence really.”
As so often in the best of Broad’s spells, the secret to success was pitching the ball up, as he himself admitted he had failed to do during South Africa’s first-innings 313.
“I fell into the trap of probably bowling a bit too short and getting carried away with the bounce,” he said. “So we had a chat with the coach and the bowling group before we went out in the second innings, we talked about bringing the batsman forward a lot more, using the bouncer of course, but from a fuller length.
“We got lucky today,” he added. “We got some clouds, the lights were on, it was perfect conditions to bowl, but we got the ball in the good areas from both ends to create that pressure and we took our catches, especially Titchy Taylor’s great catches at short leg. We took our opportunities and it’s been a fantastic day for us.”
Despite Broad’s heroics, Cook was keen to spread the credit throughout his squad, on a day which began with England 75 runs adrift of South Africa’s first-innings score, but finished with him becoming the first England captain in history to achieve series wins in both India and South Africa.
“It has not sunk in at all,” said Cook. “I think tomorrow morning with a dusty head it will start to.”
One of the dustiest heads of all is likely to belong to Ben Stokes, who followed up a vital counterattacking fifty in the first innings with a key afternoon spell in support of Broad’s onslaught, and Cook singled his up-and-coming allrounder out for special praise.
“I can’t take any credit for man-managing Ben Stokes,” he joked. “He’s off the leash tonight, but he’s an absolute gem in the side. The ability to score 250 one day then bowl almost 90mph, swinging both ways, when it’s time to balance the attack, a lot of people would want that in your side. When he got injured in Abu Dhabi, to come back here and do what he’s done, it’s amazing.
“At the start of today, day three, we knew it would be a moving day in one sense,” he added. “But the challenge was to get up close to them and try to put pressure on them in the third innings. Trev [Trevor Bayliss, the coach] gave us a rocket at lunch, saying if you want to win the series, go now and go hard.
“I’m really proud of the lads but also pleased for them,” Cook said. “Pakistan [in the UAE before Christmas] didn’t quite go our way and I felt we deserved more out of it. But we’ve got our rewards for sticking together and playing good cricket. You can get carried away with stats and averages, but everyone can be proud of what they’ve done.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo