England always have someone under the selectorial microscope. Ravi Bopara’s place for Headingley is safe, despite another failure, so attention has shifted to Stuart Broad. The young paceman’s place is, not for the first time, under severe pressure.
Broad’s chances of keeping his place at Leeds are heavily linked with the fitness of Andrew Flintoff. If England’s talisman is unfit, then Broad must play; his lower order runs are vital for a team defending a 1-0 series lead. Besides, Steve Harmison, his potential replacement, will already be in the team in the scenario of Flintoff missing out.
However, if Flintoff is fit, then there must be a chance that Broad will be replaced. Numbers can be used to tell any story, so the more telling symptom of his predicament is the fact he was not used until 50 overs had passed in Australia’s second innings at Edgbaston.
Andrew Strauss appears to have lost some faith in Broad – he has gone from opening bowler to fourth change in two Tests – and the employment of the young seamer when the third Test was dead can be construed as a final attempt to get him into some rhythm. 2-38 on the final day might just have earned him another chance.
England will be reluctant to change a winning team and the selectors are mindful that the positive set of county numbers owned by Harmison is as misleading as Broad’s negative Test statistics. The Durham man’s recent Test failings hold more sway.
If England do axe Broad – as they did last summer – it should not be for Harmison but for Ryan Sidebottom. Now fully fit he provides a different angle of attack, reliability and genuine swing, the threat the touring batsmen have struggled to deal with. If the ball swings at Headingley, England need Sidebottom, not Harmison. The chances are that neither will play.
For now, keep an eye on the Headingley Test odds before any Fourth Test betting!