STUART Broad saw the newspaper jibes, heard the boos – and carried on regardless to “stamp England’s authority” on the first day of the Ashes.
He even brought a copy of the Courier-Mail into his close-of-play press conference, having already answered the Brisbane-based tabloid’s apparent attempts to unsettle him by taking five for 65 at the Gabba.
The partisan press might have hoped for a better outcome than their team’s stumps total of 273 for eight after Michael Clarke had chosen to bat first in benign conditions.
But that was reckoning without Broad’s skill and determination, with or without the publicity-stunt threat to leave his name out of match reports or the constant booing of the majority in a 30,000-plus crowd.
It is more than four months since Broad divided cricket when he declined to walk in July’s Ashes opener at Trent Bridge, after edging a ball to slip via the wicketkeeper’s gloves.
That is still the gripe down under, where he was warned long in advance to expect a hostile reception, after his controversial part in England’s 3-0 win last summer.
He duly had to contend with a stream of uncomplimentary, often obscene chants – but despite beginning with a big no-ball, pulled for four by David Warner, he quickly had the measure of his opponents.
Australia stumbled to 132 for six – and even after Brad Haddin (78no) and Mitchell Johnson (64) then rescued the hosts, it was Broad who returned with the second new ball to break the century stand.
“I’m pleased my mum wasn’t in the stadium,” he said, referring to some of the fruitier language aimed at him, “but, to be honest, I was singing along at one stage – it gets in your head, and you find yourself whistling it at the end of your mark.
“I’d braced myself to expect it and actually it was good fun. I quite enjoyed it. It was something a bit different, but I think I coped with it okay.”
Theories had abounded about whether Broad would shrink or stand tall against the barrage that was sure to come his way.
In his own estimation, it simply had no effect either way.
“It is all good banter, isn’t it?” he said. “I don’t give it the time of the day, particularly. It doesn’t change how you bowl the ball, what shots you play – and we don’t read the papers in the changing room anyway.
“It doesn’t spur me on, that’s for sure. You don’t need any more inspiration than playing for your country in Australia’s backyard in the first Test of the series. I’ve watched games at the Gabba since I was a youngster, staying up for the first ten minutes until I fell asleep. So to be able to come here and pick up wickets like I did today and as a team to stamp our authority on the series, like we have, that is what we are here for.”
As for the Courier Mail, he said: “A couple of my mates had mentioned it, but I just saw this outside [the press-conference room] and it made me smile.”
Broad did offer a helpful hint to any Australian newsrooms thinking of cooking up the next anti-England campaign.
They have so far targeted Kevin Pietersen and him. Both may have been ill-advised and apparently it would be wise to steer clear of England’s wicketkeeper too.
“In our medical assessments, our psychologist mentioned about what kind of personality you are – and there are three guys in this side who thrive properly on getting abuse,” he continued. “It’s KP, me and Matty Prior, so they picked the good men to go at.”
Broad was especially pleased to have dismissed Clarke for just a single, with the perfect short delivery to pull off an obvious plan as the home captain was caught at short-leg.
Broad has seen off Clarke in six of his last eight innings, but added: “I wouldn’t say I’ve got a hold over him at all. His record is phenomenal and we know how important a player he is for them batting four or five. There is going to be a time in this series where it goes for him, so we’ve got to enjoy the times he is walking back with less than ten.”
Johnson, who said Australia were in a “great position”, said: “It was obviously a plan, looking at the field they set. It’s something Michael needs to keep working on. I’m sure he’s going to get more short stuff, but I’ve seen him play it well. It’s just that today the plan came off.”
Broad, meanwhile, knows that his instant impact will not stop Australians talking a great game.
“Aussies talk less?” he asked.
“That would be rare...
“We almost feel like silent assassins on this trip. We haven’t been mentioned too much, just been going under the radar and all the attention has been on the Australians. That was perfect for us. Now we’re here, we’re in for the fight and you’ll see our players stand up.”