‘Warrior’. ‘Competitive’. ‘Clever’. ‘Skilled’.
Just some of the adjectives reserved for the brilliance of Stuart Broad after the 37-year-old England great announced he was to retire from cricket at the conclusion of the fifth Ashes Test at The Kia Oval. As well as the above, Broad’s great trademark has been his ability to sniff out a moment, sense the occasion and rise to it.
As Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton so poetically put it in a tribute video played out after Broad’s announcement: “Some people say sporting success comes from talent, raw ability and skill. It can also emerge from a more elemental force, something deep inside, a fire that flickers and then burns brightly.
“Competitive instinct, in other words. That burns deep within Stuart Broad.”
And Broad delivered one final magic moment to end his remarkable career, claiming the final two wickets as England beat Australia by 49 runs in the fifth Ashes Test at The Kia Oval to draw the series 2-2.
This is a man who has continually reserved his very best for the Ashes, relishing revving the crowd up and feeding off the febrile atmosphere – the audience at its greatest and pressure at its highest – but even within that context Broad has picked his moments superbly.
His famous, career-best 8-15 in the 2015 Ashes came not only on his home ground of Trent Bridge, but also as he stepped up in the absence of his great mate and bowling partner in crime, Jimmy Anderson – ruled out with a side strain – and his efforts would effectively win England the Ashes before lunch on day one of that fourth Test.
It was one of three Ashes-clinching spells from Broad in successive home series, his first being his 5-37 at The Oval in 2009 when bowling Australia out for 160 in the first innings to set up a 197-run win. In 2013, Chester-le-Street was the setting as Broad finished with 11 for the match, his second-innings 6-50 bundling Australia out for 224 after they were well-placed at 174-3 in pursuit of 299 to win.
When Jimmy has not been there and he [Broad] has to be the leader of the attack, he does it. He has lived in Jimmy’s shadow but when he has popped out of that shadow, he has shown what a true great he is.
While his 2015 heroics at Trent Bridge was the last time Broad would taste success in an Ashes series, he has continued to provide pure theatre on the game’s greatest stage.
Broad was England’s leading wicket-taker in 2019 with 23 wickets and finished just one shy of that mark in 2023 after dismissing Todd Murphy and Alex Carey on the final day in south London.
Broad has ticked off some sizeable milestones along the way in this series, becoming just the second seamer to take 600 Test wickets, behind that man Anderson again and with the irony not lost on him that his dismissal of Travis Head came at Emirates Old Trafford and from the James Anderson End. “There’s a nice ring to it,” Broad said at the time.
Broad also became the first Englishman and just the third bowler ever (after Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath) to take 150 wickets in Ashes cricket as he picked up Usman Khawaja lbw on day two of his final Test at The Oval.
“I’ve described him as the ultimate Ashes warrior,” former Australia captain Ricky Ponting told Sky Sports.
“You look at what he has done; over 150 Ashes wickets, he’s played in 25 consecutive home Ashes Tests. It’s hard to argue that his best cricket was played in Ashes series when his team needed him the most.”
A legend of the game. Over 600 Test wickets… only one other person will ever better that and that’s his bowling partner [Jimmy Anderson]. No-one else will ever get near that. An exceptional career.
Atherton added: “His game has improved against Australia. Like many England players, they bring their best for Ashes contests – and so that’s why he wanted to finish here, at this ground [The Oval], against Australia.”
Broad has also demonstrated his particular brand of impishness in this series, which Atherton too alluded to in his tribute video.
“He could pick a fight with the Dalai Lama, could Stuart,” Atherton said. And in his sights in particular this summer have been Alex Carey and Marnus Labuschagne.
After Jonny Bairstow was controversially given out stumped during the second Test at Lord’s, Broad told Labuschagne it was “the worst thing I’ve ever seen in cricket”, while a memorable exchange with wicketkeeper Carey caught on stump mic captured Broad saying, “that’s all you’re ever going to be remembered for, that”.
Broad was back to the dark arts in this Test match too, playing some mind games with Labuschagne in the first innings, rearranging his bails immediately prior to his dismissal to Mark Wood, infuriating the Australian batter. He then repeated the tricky before dismissing Murphy on the final day at The Oval.
Cricinfo writer Vithushan Ehantharajah put it best when talking to Sky Sports as part of Saturday’s paper review: “Broad is exactly the type of person who would walk into your kitchen and open your fridge. It doesn’t surprise me [his mind games].
“I find him remarkable. This series has been flooded with too many people saying too many things – and Broad has spoken the most – but he has backed every single one of them up.”
That’s because Broad is more than happy to put himself in the spotlight, and his decision to retire ensured he was centre stage one final time at The Oval.
Making an emotional journey out to the middle on the fourth morning through an Australian guard of honour, Broad provided one final flourish with the bat, firing what would prove to be his last ball faced in cricket for six over deep square-leg. The shot was greeted by a huge, guttural roar from the full house packed into the stands to witness Broad’s farewell.
The conditions then also seemed to play to the script, with bright, glorious sunshine for his brief wielding of the willow swiftly making way for low cloud cover to aid his and England’s work with the ball.
Even David Warner seemed to know what the occasion called for, facing up first ball to the man who has reduced him to ‘bunny’ status by dismissing him 17 times over the course of his career – just two shy of Atherton’s unwanted record of 19 to McGrath.
Sadly one final wicket of Warner wasn’t to be, but Broad will certainly settle for ending the Ashes and his career on the winning side, leading the team off at The Oval alongside Moeen Ali, who himself came out of retirement in Test cricket to play in the series.
What to watch on Sky Sports this week
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Kilmarnock vs Rangers – August 5 – LIVE on Sky Sports Football
Leicester vs Coventry – August 6 – LIVE on Sky Sports Football
Leeds vs Cardiff – August 6 – LIVE on Sky Sports Football
Sunderland vs Ipswich – August 6 – LIVE on Sky Sports Football
The Hundred – August 1 to 27 – LIVE on Sky Sports Cricket
Netball World Cup – July 28 to August 6 – LIVE on Sky Sports Action
Wyndham Championship – August 3 to 6 – LIVE on Sky Sports Golf
Broad said earlier this summer: “I never felt like getting my Test cap was the dream. I wanted to make memories in it.”
As one of England’s greatest ever Test cricketers bows out of the game, there can be no argument that Broad has done just that. And then some.
Watch day five of the fifth Ashes Test live on Sky Sports Cricket on Monday. Build-up starts at 10.15am with the first ball at 11am. Stream The Ashes and more with NOW.