Outside, he frolicked, descending the steps of the pavilion. Headband in place and with nothing short of a yippity-skip in his step, as he made his way to the edge of the square to take care of his warm-ups. It shouldn’t have been a remarkable sight, except that there was such palpable joy in his antics – an old dog turned spring chicken, in the middle of his 153rd test and days away from his 36th birthday, preparing to attack the drift of England match situation.
More than anything, McCullum’s “positivity mindset,” as he put it, resonated wholeheartedly with Broad’s own determination to seize each day as it comes, and — as he put it. memorably at a press conference in Sydney in January – to “win the battle before you”, rather than endlessly planning for a tomorrow that may never come.
“These careers don’t last forever,” Broad said Tuesday. “You have to get the most out of it and enjoy it. The moment I stop having fun and lose that competitive spirit, I won’t be the fast bowler that I am, there’s no doubt about it. flourish that competitive spirit and that’s why I feel like I can change the momentum of the games pretty quickly.”
Truth be told, Broad hadn’t fully raced on his first two days of action. It would be unfair to describe him as a weak link after New Zealand were knocked out for 132 on the first morning – especially as their only wicket in that first leg had been the dangerous Devon Conway, a double centurion on his debut in this same competition 12 months earlier.
It has raised questions, not for the first time, whether it is sustainable for the two former stints to stay in tandem as England’s attacking leaders, particularly on occasions when the spice seems to have disappeared from the surface. But Broad was emphatically unimpressed by such stage whispers, and in a brave response he seized on England’s day in the way he has made his mark over the years.
It wasn’t an instant impact, mind you. Mitchell, the 97 overnight, needed a lone wide delivery to hit the three runs he needed through the covers and climb onto the locker room honors roll with a richly acclaimed century. But from the start, with the ball still old, Broad was decidedly full, visibly aggressive, targeting stumps and heeding McCullum’s imperative that “wickets, not save rates” is the measure by which he will be judged.
And then, after breaking another boundary via a brutal squirt from Mitchell across the ravine that can only have emboldened his approach, came the overrun that transformed the horizons of England.
Morally, visually, viscerally, however, this playthrough was the perfect companion to those earlier antics. A heady mix of brilliance, absurdity and theatrics that would put a ham to shame in village pantomime, as New Zealand rediscovered those legendary knees and caffeinated torso bounce in a devastating three-card round.
First, the slamming of the hatch on a vicious angled length, that relentless line in Mitchell’s splice that offered no exit clause as he hooked the edge to Ben Foakes. Then the confusion – both from Colin de Grandhomme and from Broad himself – as another inducker crashed into the pads, only for Ollie Pope to hit the stumps before the batter or bowler knew really what happened.
Broad’s reaction was priceless – halfway through his celebration for an lbw who was clearly missing a leg he didn’t have a scoobies what just happened in his peripheral vision except his teammates tone first place, and the entirety of Lord a heartbeat later had gone from an upbeat ooh to a guttural roar like a sporting manifestation of the Doppler Effect.
It was a pure joke dismissal, the type Broad seems to attract like a moth to a spotlight (notably his own – see his first-inning dismissal for more glee). In fact, it was vaguely reminiscent of the middle wicket in his first Test hat-trick, against India at Trent Bridge in 2011, a huge lbw inside Harbhajan Singh who would have been knocked down if India hadn’t been resistant to the use of DRS that summer. Of course, his second hat-trick, against Sri Lanka at Headingley in 2014, was even dumber – it was spread over two overs, and he didn’t even know he had claimed it.
He knew all about that moment though. Broad returned to the top of his mark, driving the Lord’s crowd as he twirled a conductor’s arms – like a curious hybrid of Jonathan Edwards (another man who did things in threes with famous knees) , and a brave Briton on an outdoor court at Wimbledon.
In il galiva, full came the length, splat went Kyle Jamieson’s stump. And Broad frolicked once more, heading for the Tavern Stand with his team in merry pursuit, as happy as a dog with a string of sausages. The dice were cast for another dramatic rattling of New Zealand wickets – 6 for 34 this rowdy morning, down from 6 for 39 the first.
Not that it left England with anything resembling a walk to victory – and judging by New Zealand’s own response, it could still prove to be too little, too late. But that’s not the point of the exercise at this exploratory stage of the test team’s new beginnings. The most crucial point is that no matter how these times turn out, Broad is on board and loving every minute of the ride.
Andrew Miller is ESPNcricinfo’s UK editor. @miller_cricket