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Eng vs SA, 3rd Test

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Eng vs SA, 3rd Test

Stuart Broad said he hoped that a packed Oval ground had enjoyed a “celebration of the Queen’s life” on an emotional and extraordinary opening day of the delayed third Test against South Africa, but defended England’s batting on a pitch that he claimed had proven “too bowler-friendly” after two extra days under the covers.

England reached the close on 151 for 7 in their first innings, with a lead of 36, having earlier shot out South Africa for 118 inside two sessions. The advantage could still be handy in a wicket-laden contest, but it might not be as decisive as it could have been with a bit of circumspection, with Joe Root and Ben Stokes particularly culpable for giving their wickets away with a surfeit of aggression.

Broad, however, was unapologetic about carrying on with the methods that have taken England to five wins out of six this summer, all of them while batting second and reacting to a score already on the board from their opponents.

“We’re very comfortable chasing a score, to be honest,” Broad told Sky Sports. “Our mindset is we need to play in a way that gives us the chance to take 20 wickets, and if bowling first we get 20 wickets, we’ll win the game.

“If we bowl again tomorrow and put South Africa under pressure, we could be could be batting on a day-three Oval pitch, which you’d argue could be the best time to bat,” he added. “Our mindset was we want a result either way in this game. We need to play in a style that is going to create a result and, after day one, we’re looking at either a win or a loss, and in our mind, that’s a win.”

They certainly could not have done much more to accelerate a contest that had already been delayed by two days, through a combination of rain on Thursday, and Friday’s day of respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

After little more than an hour’s play, South Africa were reeling on 36 for 6, with Ollie Robinson four wickets into the third five-for of his career, and by the time they had been bowled out for 118, Broad had picked up 4 for 41, to move alongside his childhood hero Glenn McGrath, on 563 career Test wickets.

“Earlier this morning it was too bowler-friendly, but you know I’d never really say that!” he said. “But it seamed a lot when I first came on as a first-change bowler. I was surprised, it was nipping three or four balls an over. We were happy to bowl South Africa out for a cheap score, but we also knew that we had some work to do.

“It’s not our mentality to prod and poke around, we knew that runs were going to be at a premium, so we had that mindset that we had to go out and put the South African bowlers under pressure. Because there’s a good ball in that pitch, and if it continues to nip like it did today, we’ll see a few more wickets.”

Broad was coy about the achievement of matching McGrath, a player he sought to emulate as a kid, and the only other seamer besides James Anderson to have taken as many wickets.

“He’s a hero of mine,” he said. “I feel like I don’t really deserve to be in that sort of category, to be honest, and obviously he’s played a lot less games [124 Tests to 159]. He was great, one of the greatest bowlers of all time in my opinion, but it feels very special to hopefully get one more and join my mate Jimmy as a one-two in that list of seamers.”

Long after the clatter of wickets have been forgotten, however, the day will be remembered for the spine-tingling ceremony before the start of play, as the players lined up for a minute’s silence in memory of the Queen, followed by two unforgettable renditions of the national anthems, including the first airing of “God Save The King” at a sporting event since 1952.

After the uncertainty surrounding the future of the game, which had been up in the air until an announcement from the ECB on Friday afternoon, Broad said he had been honoured to take part in such a moving occasion.

“It was incredible to be a part of,” he said. “Walking down the stairs you could hear a pin drop. The respect shown by everyone in the stadium was incredible and to be able to sing the national anthem, with a full house, was brilliant. It felt like a celebration of the Queen’s life today and it felt good to be out there representing the badge like we did today.”

Asked if he had wanted or expected to play on after the death of the Queen, at the age of 96, Broad said: “You have to give it some thought, though ultimately it was never in the players’ hands.

“I must admit, when I saw the Premier League were postponing their fixtures for the weekend. I thought, oh, that might play a role in in our game. But I was really pleased when I heard the news that we were continuing, and then you get your mind on making sure you put in the performance to entertain the public.

“We knew it was only going to be a three-day game. So we had to play some entertaining stuff. And I think everyone will leave pretty happy tonight.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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