Matthew Potts will make his Test debut for England at Lord’s this week but even the latest seamer to emerge from Durham’s impressive production line will do well to match the excitement levels of Stuart Broad.
Whether it was missing the Caribbean, fresh leadership in the form of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, or simply the afterglow of his beloved Nottingham Forest reaching the Premier League for the first time in 23 years over the weekend, Broad described himself as “flying” ahead of Thursday’s series opener against New Zealand.
Now 35, and with his old new-ball partner, Jimmy Anderson, similarly back in the saddle, Broad has credited Chris Marshall, the sports psychologist at Nottinghamshire, for getting him to think solely about the short term. This approach is one England are moving back to more generally and in the case of Broad, it pushes the wider questions about his longevity and a possible retirement date to one side.
“There’s no doubt when the team was in the West Indies I missed it,” said Broad, ahead of England’s rain-affected practice on Tuesday. “It just makes you realise that, yes, these careers don’t go on forever, you’ve got to get as much out of it as you possibly can and enjoy it. The moment I stop enjoying or lose that competitive spirit, then I won’t be the fast bowler I am, no doubt about that.
“I’ve done a lot of work with [Marshall] and rather than view the summer as ‘I hope I’m fit for the second Test series against South Africa’ – and life doesn’t work like that – it is very much is ‘be very grateful for what I’ve got this week and give my heart and soul’. It’s almost a line in the sand, coming into each Test match like I’ve never played before, but with the luxury of playing 150-odd Test matches of experience to calm me down.
“If I’m stiff and sore next week, we’ll approach that then. And if I don’t play the second Test, or they want to give a new bowler experience, then great. It’s just all about everything to the England shirt and the environment; the results look after themselves.”
Fresh blood comes in immediately, in fact, with the expectation that Potts will get the nod ahead of Craig Overton. It means a long tail – perhaps even Jack Leach at No 8 – but after watching the 23-year-old first-hand as he scorched his way to 35 wickets with Durham this season, Stokes appears keen to throw a fresh challenge at the New Zealand batting lineup that secured a 1-0 series win here 12 months ago.
Broad said: “I’d never seen Potts bowl a ball [in person] before yesterday. It’s really exciting, he deserves his chance. He looks strong and robust, he bowls good pace and wicket-taking balls. I see this week, if he plays, as guiding him through his first Test.
“He’s done brilliantly for Durham but playing at Lord’s for England, hopefully a full house over the weekend, is a bit of a different style of cricket. With Jimmy and my experience, hopefully we can help.”
It remains to be seen if a full house results, with thousands of tickets unsold and a debate over the pricing – between £100 and £160 in the main – raging this week. Broad noted the unique nature of the jubilee bank holiday but also conceded that, more generally, pricing may need to be revisited given the current economic climate.
The right-armer also insisted the style of cricket England play, not just results, is key to attracting crowds and the early messages from Stokes and McCullum are to take the positive options where possible. For the bowlers, Broad said, the orders are to focus on taking wickets, rather than worrying about the run-rate, something Joe Root, the former captain, may crack a wry smile about after looking to do the same.
There is, however, an injury crisis among the seamers, with Jofra Archer, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Fisher out for the summer with lower back stress fractures. Mark Wood and Olly Stone are yet to return after elbow and back operations respectively, while Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes are still battling niggles from the winter.
Broad puts his own impressive fitness record down to the volume of overs sent down as a younger man and sees his former Nottinghamshire teammate, Luke Wood, a beneficiary of the absentees. The Lancashire left-armer has earned his first England call-up as part of the squad that plays three ODIs in the Netherlands from 17 June and is the first under the white-ball head coach Matthew Mott.
England ODI squad to face Netherlands: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Brydon Carse, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, David Payne, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Reece Topley, David Willey, Luke Wood