Stuart Broad doesn't think the team's batting order needs to be rejigged yet despite two losses on the trot
It’s hard to read too much from Stuart Broad’s expressions. His piercing blue eyes occasionally dance with anger, especially when asked if his team is missing He-who-must-not-be-named, sitting in a television studio in Colombo, but otherwise, Broad’s face gives little away.
When you speak about England’s batting against spin bowling, the brow might furrow a touch, and when he considers the length of the boundaries in Pallekele, a ground he described as a “postage stamp”, his lips squeeze into a thin smile, but that’s about it.
Whether this is because Broad genuinely believes that something big, and good, is just around the corner for his team, or he’s merely putting on a brave face in what he knows is a dark phase, only time will tell.
Whatever the case, it helps England’s cause that the immediate task on hand, ahead of its match against New Zealand on Saturday, is well defined. With little margin for error left, England simply must not lose early wickets. Against India, England had lost its first wicket off the sixth ball of the innings. It got worse in its first Super Eights match, with wickets falling of the second and third balls, before a run was on the board.
“I think it’s too early to think about rejigging the team,” said Broad. “Whoever takes responsibility to go out there and face the new ball, it’s important they take responsibility to get through the first over. We saw against Afghanistan, when you have wickets in hand how dangerous you can be. Losing early wickets, especially in the first over, is not acceptable.”
Broad, however, knows perfectly well that there’s a gulf as wide as the Palk Straits between Afghanistan and New Zealand. “We know the dangers they pose with their powerful batting line-up,” said Broad. “McCullum, Guptill, Taylor … Vettori’s been a thorn in our side for a long time. I think it’s important we don’t look too much at the opposition. We’ve played on this ground, and know what to expect.”
The obvious thing for England to do to stem their top-order woes is to promote Eoin Morgan, at the very least from No. 5 to No. 4, if not higher. But this is something England is resisting, which suggests it has less faith in the others than it would let us believe. If you listen to Broad, Morgan will stay where he is, but that’s a serious risk given that England is one collapse away from being knocked out of the tournament.
“Morgan’s game is best suited to finding the boundaries when the fielders are back,” said Broad, justifying his present position in the order. “It’s an amazing skill, which not everyone has. He’s not overly suited to piercing the infield. So the risk-reward for someone so valuable to the team may be too high for him to try to pierce the field when everyone’s in. If you lose Morgan in the first six overs, you’re in big trouble. It was decided that his skills would be best used in the middle overs.”
Broad was also remarkably blasé when asked if he was concerned about the inexperience in his batting line-up when compared to New Zealand’s. “Nope,” was all he ventured, before suggesting that players in his team had “played plenty of domestic T20 cricket”.
New Zealand, for its part, has showed great appetite for a scrap. It has made no excuses, and demanded plenty of its players, even if occasionally employing bizarre strategies. Why it will not open with Brendon McCullum is a key question, one that has not gathered much momentum thanks to Rob Nicol’s partial success. In a tight game against Sri Lanka, New Zealand extracted every ounce of professionalism from its players. If they do so again, England, the defending champion, might be in for a nasty surprise.