England paceman Stuart Broad believes the first Test is too close to call, after taking 3-16 on an eventful second day in Durban.
With England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker James Anderson forced to look on after sustaining a calf injury ahead of the first encounter, Broad, as he did in the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, stepped up in his absence.
England thought they were in for an extremely tough clash against Australia back in August, as they were forced to go into battle without Anderson. Broad showed that he was more than capable of performing in his absence with 8-15.
While it wasn’t quite the sparkling performance that saw him get best-ever figures, his 3-16 on Sunday was crucial in putting England in a good position, claiming the wickets of Stiaan van Zyl, and the dangerous duo of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.
‘It was nice to pick up a wicket early and get Amla in early,’ said Broad. ‘We know what a dangerous player he is, he averages over 50 in Test cricket, and your best opportunity to get any player of that calibre is with a newer ball.’
Broad has now dismissed De Villiers eight times in Test cricket, after luring him into the slightest of false strokes with a leg-cutter to see him perish one short of a half century. Broad believes the game remains firmly in the balance, which makes the first session on day three all the more important.
‘I think it is very tight. It’s all on that first hour,’ he said. ‘You say that in Test cricket, you are always looking forward, and that next hour always seems to be important but it is a really important session. If we can get two or three wickets and break open their tail then we are certainly in the game.
‘With the dryness of the wicket a first-innings lead is going to be quite important. That’s got to be our aim.’
England twice failed to review not-out decisions that would have gone their way while Ben Stokes thought he’d caught De Villiers for 11, but it was over-ruled by the third umpire after it was sent to a TV replay.
‘We’ve missed a couple of chances that we’ll keep striving to improve ourselves, but overall it was a really good day for us,’ Broad said.
‘We created pressure. I think that’s what it’s about. Whoever takes wickets is irrelevant; as a bowling unit you create pressure and you have got to do that from both ends and I thought all the guys did that nicely.’