Stuart Broad revelled in a successful reunion with James Anderson as England took control of the third Test against the West Indies, insisting there is plenty of mileage left in the prolific partnership.
Broad excelled as a solo act on day two at Emirates Old Trafford, peppering the boundary in a free-scoring 62 to push his side to 369 before dismissing Kraigg Brathwaite and Roston Chase as the tourists finished five down and 232 behind.
But for many English cricket fans there is no finer sight than his new-ball duet with 38-year-old Anderson. The pair have now played a remarkable 117 Tests at each other’s side, though they have taken the field together just three times in the last 15 matches.
The reasons for that are many – injuries, rotation, succession planning and the vagaries of overseas conditions – but the sight of the duo working away with their expertly honed routine was a treat after six months apart.
That they finished with matching figures of two for 17, an extra over for Anderson only slightly vexing the symmetry, served to underline the point. The notion of keeping the veteran seamers apart has long been mooted, playing one and resting the other to increase their longevity and blood successors, but the abandonment of the policy for a deciding Test in Manchester seems a sound decision.
“It didn’t really feel like we haven’t played together for so long, but three games in 14 isn’t a lot,” admitted Broad.
“I thought we slotted back into what we do and how we work together to take wickets and the proof was in the pudding. I loved it.”
The question lingers as to how many more times there will be, but Broad sees no need to think about putting a time-frame on it.
“On today’s performance do you think we’re in the best bowling attack?” the 34-year-old asked, with a rhetorical flourish.
“When I speak to Jimmy he wants to keep going until he’s the age of (Kent veteran) Darren Stevens. He wants to keep trundling in when he’s 42. I don’t ever walk on the field thinking, ‘is this the last time we’re going to play together?’. We both have a burning desire to keep winning Test matches for England.
“I get the feeling that when one of us goes the other will be one of the first to know, but Jimmy’s record is arguably getting better and better, as is mine, so let’s keep striking while the iron is hot.”
While their combined excellence with a Dukes ball is almost taken for granted, Broad’s 33-ball half-century – the joint third fastest among Englishman – came as much more of a surprise. His early promise as a batsman dropped off several years ago and was largely extinguished on this same ground in 2014 when he suffered a bloody injury after being hit by a bouncer from India’s Varun Aaron.
“Not many go through that, when the ball goes through the visor and into your face. It’s different to getting hit on the helmet,” he said.
“No doubt it had a psychological effect. It certainly made batting very unenjoyable for a period of time. I wouldn’t say today ‘exorcised’ anything, but I think they were important runs. In cricket you don’t have many days where you can say individually, ‘that was a great day’. There are days where you might not bat or bowl so you’ve got to cherish the days when things go OK.”
West Indies bowler Kemar Roach also had plenty to celebrate, becoming the ninth Caribbean bowler to reach 200 Test wickets during an inspired morning spell.
“It was a heartwarming feeling, I’ve worked hard to get to this stage,” he said.
“I base my career on milestones: 100 wickets, 150 wickets, now 200 wickets. I want as many as I can, so 200 is ticked off now. Let’s see what 250 looks like, let’s see what 300 looks like.”