The Ashes: Broad heartbroken at leaving the tour
Three English fast bowlers will arrive in Melbourne today with a sudden shot at Ashes glory. It is hardly too dramatic to suggest that the next three days could define their careers.
Following the injury to Stuart Broad, one of the key components in the side's quest to win the series, the man who replaces him will have a significant role in the third Test which starts next week. England won the second yesterday by an innings and 71 runs and would appear to have their opponents on the run.
England deliberately tried to pick a like for like bowling attack for this Ashes series so that injuries to any of the initial group of bowlers selected could be covered and enable them to continue with a carefully planned strategy.
But Broad's replacement is not obvious. Any one of Chris Tremlett, like him 6ft 7ins tall and capable of generating disconcerting lift from a length, Ajmal Shahzad, an exponent of reverse swing, and Tim Bresnan, a whole-hearted bowler who generates more pace than is sometimes recognised could come in for the match in Perth.
First they must go through their paces, so to speak, in the three-day first class match in Melbourne starting tomorrow. All will play and while the team management probably have a clear idea of who they want it is not set in stone. Perhaps it is Tremlett's place to lose.
But the enforced absence for the rest of the series of Broad, a Test veteran of 24, will be deeply felt by the squad. He has grown in stature with almost every Test match since making his debut in 2007 and was instrumental in the victory at The Oval last year that secured the Ashes once more.
Broad suffered a tear in an abdominal muscle near the start of Australia's second innings in Adelaide on Monday. He tried repeatedly to take the field again and had an injection to try to disguise the injury but it was to no avail.
The injury took the edge off England's elation at their first meaningful Test win in Australia for a generation. It was the sort of occurrence a meticulous management have accounted for in their planning for the series but that hardly lessened its impact.
Andrew Strauss, the team's captain, said: “He is distraught and we are all distraught he is going to be leaving us, he is a big part of our side on and off the field, he has been one of the mainstays of the attack for a while now and has all the ingredients to bowl well in Australia as well, but the show moves on and the other three bowlers have the chance to have an impact on the series.”
Broad was almost inconsolable at having to curtail his tour. He said: “Obviously I'm heartbroken. I'm distraught at leaving the tour,” he said. “Within two or three balls of my spell, I knew I was in big trouble.
“I put a couple of bouncers in and I could hardly breathe. I knew my tour was over. I was going for broke then, and just trying to get a wicket before I was gone. I had an injection to see if I could get through this Test, bowling and do a job from one end. But the tear was too big, and it wasn't really feasible.
“It's going to be hard to watch, but I will be watching — because the guys are playing fantastic cricket,” said Broad. “My family are coming out for Christmas, so we will probably cross like ships in the night.”
Broad’s objective on returning to England will be to be fit in time for the World Cup which begins in mid-February.