Sir Andrew Strauss believes Stuart Broad has never bowled better and that England should make the most of his long-standing partnership with Jimmy Anderson before even thinking about moving on.
The man who captained England to No 1 in the world Test rankings in 2011 and then masterminded their white-ball transformation to become World Cup winners last year as team director is full of admiration for the enduring quality of their twin bowling champions.
And Strauss, who has watched Broad close-up in the Old Trafford bubble during the Red for Ruth third Test, says he would never have dreamed he could be on the brink of 500 Test wickets when he first saw him at the start of his career.
‘I honestly don’t believe Stuart has bowled better than this,’ said Strauss as rain washed out the fourth day against West Indies. ‘There were a couple of years where perhaps he lost his wrist a bit and it was hard work for him to bowl at right-handers. But now he’s equally potent against left and right.
‘Anybody would write off Stuart and Jimmy at their peril and let’s not be in a hurry to pension them off because they have got a lot still to offer. What impresses me is their hunger to carry on because anyone who has played for England for any length of time knows there is a lot of sacrifice. We need to savour and enjoy it every time those two bowl together in an England shirt.’
Strauss first saw Broad, who has taken 14 wickets so far in this series despite being left out of the first Test and stands on 499 going into Tuesday’s final day with England needing eight wickets to win the Test and the series, when he was a 20-year-old at Leicestershire.
‘There was obvious talent and he was comfortable on the big stage and delivering under pressure,’ said Strauss, who has been the face of the fund-raising efforts for the foundation he runs in the name of his late wife during this Test.
‘He also had a real knack of taking wickets with not particularly great balls which was a good ability to have. But there have been so many bowlers whose star has shone for a year or two and have then either been worked out or their confidence has deserted them.
‘I don’t think anybody would have said Stuart would take 500 Test wickets but people did think he had the potential to have a long England career. For all his qualities he is at his best when he’s had a point to prove and he’s really had the bit between his teeth in these last two Tests. That competitiveness has served him particularly well.’
By Monday an incredible £655,693 had been raised during this Test for the Ruth Strauss Foundation for cancer research and support for bereaved families. And that is over £100,000 more than raised in last year’s Red for Ruth Test at Lord’s even though there have been no spectators in Manchester, cementing the event in the English cricketing calendar.