Stuart Broad says that England may be willing to set West Indies an achievable target on the final day of the second Test in exchange for the opportunity to get hold of a second new ball, after giving themselves an outside chance of forcing a series-salvaging victory at Emirates Old Trafford.
Speaking at the close of the fourth day, in which his own new-ball burst of 3 for 1 in 14 balls was instrumental in bowling West Indies out for 287, Broad remained confident that the fifth-day wicket would offer England plenty of opportunities to take 10 wickets and square the series with Friday’s third Test to come, but only if they allow themselves enough time to turn the screw.
England certainly set out with intent in their own second innings, opening the batting with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in a bid to build quickly on their first-innings lead of 182. And while Buttler fell for a duck, and Zak Crawley followed soon afterwards for 11, Broad was not disheartened at England’s close-of-play total of 37 for 2, for it reinforced the impression that run-scoring is getting ever harder on this surface.
“It’ll be a good day tomorrow, I think,” Broad told Sky Sports. “We need to set it up in the first 45 minutes to an hour tomorrow. The dream world [would be to] try and get two new balls because we’ve seen the new ball has behaved slightly differently on this pitch, and gives the bowlers a real chance. We’ve given ourselves a chance of winning this game which is a great position to be in.”
With 98 overs available on the final day, and an overnight lead of 219, the danger for England is that an over-aggressive declaration would offer West Indies an achievable run-chase and a chance to sew up a 2-0 series win. But with their hopes of the Wisden Trophy depending on back-to-back wins, Broad was adamant that the benefits of the second new ball – available after 80 overs – would inform their decisions.
“We’ve not had those sort of chats of where we want to be runs-wise,” he said, “but I think the second new ball is going to be quite important, even if it’s for four, five, six overs. Because if West Indies were seven-down with that second new ball, you’d feel like it would give you a real chance.
“We saw today, with a bit of short-pitch bowling, you can you can stop the scoring quite quickly with big square boundaries and windy conditions, so I think we’d sacrifice a few runs for the chance to have that second ball for sure.”
Another factor in England’s plans may be the propensity for the ball to go quite soft after 40 overs – even, as Broad agreed, for the spin of Dom Bess, who claimed the first wicket of the day in an incisive morning spell but was unable to replicate that threat later in the innings. And the fielders’ inability to use saliva on the ball may also be a factor in that lack of mid-innings threat.
“Another day’s wear in that pitch today, with some sunshine and wind, might have dried out a bit more, which helped it deteriorate slightly today, so it might play that way tomorrow a bit,” Broad said.
“These balls are proving hard to shine. We’re giving it to the bowlers to try and get some sweat into it, but obviously with no saliva I think the swing numbers would be way down compared to English summers gone by.
“We decided we would just try to slam the ball into the pitch as hard as possible and try and wobble the seam a little bit, and we got some indifferent bounce. The balls haven’t swung up until about 12 overs old, when the lacquer starts to come off, but the hardness of the ball definitely bought some extra bounce. We saw that with [Shannon] Gabriel tonight, and a couple misbehaved to Crawley there, which gives us bowlers hope tomorrow.
“We need to create ten chances as a bowling unit, and we need to take our chances in the field.”
Although Broad believes that the new ball will be the key to England’s hopes, he also feels that England have the creativity in their ranks to mix their tactics up in the middle overs, as Ben Stokes in particular showed in the first innings.
“Going round the wicket, he bowled a really hostile spell on a slow pitch that created chances and got him a wicket,” Broad said. “Hopefully we’ll have enough runs on the board that we can get creative and if a few boundaries go against us, it doesn’t matter.
“Bessy might play a key role tomorrow. Obviously the bowlers have had a decent workload today, we’ve got to back that up and do everything tonight recovery-wise. But I think our mindset is to create ten chances, and I think that pitch – particularly with the new ball – has got ten chances in it.
“I see [Kraigg] Brathwaite as a big wicket,” he added. “He’s solid, he takes up a lot of balls, he bats a lot of time. If we can get him in the first ten overs, I think that’ll give us a real boost.”
Shamarh Brooks, the West Indies batsman, said he expected England to pull the plug on the third innings once the target was “260, 270”.
“It all depends on the time that they spend to get those runs,” Brooks said. “We just need to make it as difficult for them as possible and make them spend as much time out there batting so they don’t get the opportunity to bowl too much at us.”
Brooks said that he was “not at all” surprised to see Buttler and Stokes promoted up the order, and added that it was by no means a given that West Indies would drop anchor.
“I’m not saying that chasing the runs is out of the question,” he said. “It all depends on how much they give us to chase. I still think the wicket is decent to bat on, I said before the new ball did a bit out of the ordinary this evening and it’s something to look at. Once you see out that new ball, then you can look at actually chasing the runs.”