THE best wines, they say get better with age and Stuart Broad is proving that in cricketing terms he is maturing as well as a good drop of red.
According to respected wine app Vivino, the Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, from Napa Valley in California, is the best in the world right now and while some might argue that he has only been playing against the West Indies, Broad could be regarded as the pick of the crop of Test fast bowlers on current form.
The 34-year-old is of good vintage and in wine-tasting terms would be described as a little fruity with a bit of a kick if shaken up.
That was certainly how the veteran quick felt when surprisingly left out of the first Test with the West Indies at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton as Test cricket returned in its own bio bubble.
Broad was understandably upset at not making the England team as the sport returned for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the sporting world back in March.
“I’m not a particularly emotional person but I’ve found the last couple of days quite tough,” Broad said during the first Test when Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and his old mate James Anderson were the preferred attack with spinner Dom Bess.
“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement — you get disappointed if you drop your phone and break your screen.
“I’ve been frustrated, angry and gutted because it’s quite a hard decision to understand. I’ve probably bowled the best I’ve ever bowled in the last couple of years. I felt like it was my shirt, having been in the team through the Ashes and going to South Africa and winning there.”
Broad could have easily spat the dummy and taken his bat and ball and headed home to isolation, but in typical fashion, the quick, whose first Test wicket was that of Sri Lankan bowling great Chaminda Vaas in 2007, fought back in style.
He reclaimed his spot in the home bowling attack in the second Test at Old Trafford and helped England level the series with match figures of 6-108 as Joe Root’s men won by 113 runs in Manchester.
That took his tally of Test wickets to 491 with just the final Test of the series again at Old Trafford.
The veteran would have been eyeing off the magical 500 but would have known that he needed a top-notch performance, even against a West Indies team which was clearly showing the effects of life inside the bio-security bubble in the final encounter of three for the Wisden Trophy.
It was Broad’s batting which came to the fore in England’s first innings, hitting a quickfire 62 as the home side put together a challenging first innings total of 369-9 declared.
Throughout the years, Broad has had the ability to produce stunning spells, the Aussies certainly will not forget his 8-15 on the first day of the Trent Bridge Test in 2015.
Sky Sports commentator Michael Holding said during the deciding Test that batters beware when Stuart Broad’s knees are pumping as something special is just around the corner.
Broad produced one of those magical spells in the Windies’ first innings, taking 6-31 as the visitors struggled to 197, just avoiding the follow-on.
That put him on 497 Test scalps and with two quick wickets in the tourists’ second innings, he was tantalisingly left one short of the 500-mark.
The Old Trafford weather frustrated Broad and the England side, with rain wiping out all of day four, but on a blustery final day, the England veteran finally broke through the barrier which only six men had previously reached.
Anderson allowed his teammates to congratulate Broad, but then embraced his long-time new-ball partner when he had Kraigg Brathwaite plumb in front LBW.
The pair have been inextricably linked since they joined forces for the first time in an England attack in 2008.
Since then the duo have played 117 Tests together, combining for 895 wickets with Anderson claiming 473 and Broad 422.
In a strange twist of fate, Anderson’s 500th scalp was also Brathwaite in 2017 and Broad has now joined his pal and two other quick bowlers, Glenn McGrath, Courtney Walsh in the 500 wickets club.
Broad, who originally followed in the footsteps of his Test-playing father Chris as a batsman, has gone on to become one of the world’s greatest fast bowlers.
His partnership with Anderson is undoubtedly England’s greatest and is also up there alongside other great fast-bowling duos of renown – Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Walsh and Curtly Ambrose and Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.
Broad has shown great strength of character after being written off many times in his lengthy Test career.
This latest comeback from the misery of his axing from the first Test, is probably his finest, as he ended up with 10 wickets in the match to go with his 50 in the first innings to seal the man-of-the-match award as England turned the series around to take it 2-1.
Broad also walked off with the trophy as the man of the series – a tale of total redemption for a man whose longevity is matched only by his tenacity.
Behind the scenes he works as hard as anyone, including his old mate Anderson, who he believes will still be at the other end when England try to regain the Ashes next year in Australia.
“I don’t ever walk on the field with him and wonder if this is the last time we’ll play together because both of us have a burning desire to keep going,” Broad said of Anderson after his match-winning display in Manchester.
“I certainly get the feeling when one of us goes, each other will be one of the first people to know. But there’s been no talk of that.
“Jimmy’s record is getting better and better, as is mine.”
Singularly both Anderson and Broad are two of the greatest fast bowlers in Test history, with 1090 Test wickets between them.
Together they are the greatest Test pace duo of all time.
England fans will be hoping this vintage will be around for a few more years yet.