The Judge: No easy answer for Broad as he suffers barren spell

Stuart Broad's place in the England side has come into question once again after he failed to take a wicket in the first three one-day internationals against Sri Lanka and was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for swearing at umpire Billy Bowden at Headingley.

Pace bowler Broad seemed to have the world at his feet when he played a decisive role in the 2009 Ashes series victory, and again when he made 169 against Pakistan at Lord's last year, adding to his Test all-rounder credentials.

Since then it has all gone a little haywire. A side strain meant he played only the first Ashes Test in Australia last winter, missing out on England's moment of glory, and a similar injury cut short his involvement in the World Cup.

He was named England's new Twenty20 captain at the start of the season, not such a surprise since he seems to be someone who knows what he's talking about when he is interviewed and he has always appeared to be involved in on-field discussions about bowling changes and field placings.

But his Twenty20 baptism as skipper brought a heavy defeat by Sri Lanka, and he has left himself open to criticism with some of his on-field behaviour. It doesn't help that at the moment he can't buy a wicket.

Most bowlers go through that kind of lean spell at some stage, and as a coach I'm often asked what you can do. It happens at all levels of the game but if you are still bowling in the right areas and it's just not happening for you, there is not a lot you can do.

All you can do is carry on preparing for matches in the same way that brought you success in the first place and that way you give yourself the best chance of turning things round – fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.

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It can be misleading, however, to judge a bowler solely on his analyses. Some cricketers record every innings or bowling spell, but I'm more inclined to judge a player on how he is bowling rather than the number of wickets he is taking.

In Broad's case, it appears he could bowl a slightly fuller length, but I'm sure the England bowling coach, David Saker, will be working on that.

The consistency of selection that came in during the Duncan Fletcher era has worked in Broad's favour, unlike the policy of the 80s and 90s where you could be dropped after one match if you failed to produce the goods.

But there are bowlers waiting to take his place and if he is dropped he needs to react in a positive way.

He has had a few on-field problems which come through the frustration of a barren spell – when things go well cricket is the most wonderful game in the world but it can also kick you when you are down.

The fact that Broad is an ex-Test player's son may add to the pressure but he has given the media plenty of ammunition by getting into on-field rants with the umpire, a waste of time because there is only one winner.

His father, Chris, now an international referee, had a few disciplinary issues in his England days but was not as fiery on the field as Stuart. I am sure father and son must have had a conversation about that and I would certainly like to have been a fly on the wall.


You could call it the curse of the columnist, but Horsford's 149-run defeat at Vauxhall Mallards means it's all change again at the top of the East Anglian Premier League, Swardeston cashing in with a one-wicket success over Norwich.

These local derbies are very keenly contested. They have a hard edge to them and they have a big bearing on the title race in most seasons.

I have played at Brundall for both Norwich and Horsford and it is a tough place to go. I have had the odd success there, but I have certainly had more disappointments.

It sounds obvious, but Mallards know everything there is to know about their home – the shape of the ground, the angles, the slope, the best areas to score and where to place your field.

It was an important toss for them to win and a target of 264 was always going to be a very tall order for Horsford, even on a small ground. It was no surprise to me that they didn't get close.

The top four places in the table are a moveable feast at the moment and we have new leaders in Swardeston, who proved again that the best sides know how to fall over the winning line.

Bottom-of-the-table Norwich were beaten only narrowly but my fear for them is that the two sides I felt they could best overhaul, Halstead and Sudbury, have pulled away into mid-table.

Clacton and Saffron Walden, last year's runners-up, are in the bottom four at the halfway stage but they are better teams than the table suggests and I believe it will be Burwell that Norwich have to rein in if they are to pull clear of trouble.

It is as you were in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division as Fakenham march on. They have a 45-point lead after their ninth win of the season, against Brooke.

They appear to be comfortably the best side in the league and they should go on to regain EAPL status at the first attempt.


Cricket has certainly caught up with football in the way major grounds have been upgraded as the game embraces the 21st century.

Most top grounds have been transformed – Trent Bridge, Headingley, Edgbaston with its new �32m Pavilion Stand – and now Lancashire have won their Court of Appeal battle over the redevelopment of Old Trafford.

With arenas like the Swalec Stadium, the Rose Bowl and Riverside now staging international fixtures, Lancashire knew they had to redevelop to retain Test status, and with the help of �21m from Tesco they are now in a position to complete the job they began when they opened the huge red conference centre, The Point, next to the pavilion.

They can now turn Old Trafford into the kind of venue fitting for a county that has Manchester as its capital.

More people want to watch Test cricket and the grounds have had to become bigger and better – the one negative is that ticket prices have gone through the roof and it is putting the game out of the reach of working-class supporters. It can cost �80 or �90 to go to a one-day international or a day at a Test match, which is ridiculous.

I've been back to my old home ground at Derby only twice since I finished playing for the county, and only once during the season, but since then Derbyshire have redeveloped the ground and turned the square through 90 degrees so that, seeing it on TV, it is barely recognisable from my playing days. They realised they had to move with the times.

But the important thing is that we don't lose traditional landmarks such as the Lord's pavilion and those at Old Trafford, Trent Bridge and The Oval because new structures, while having wonderful facilities, simply do not have the same history and character and we must not lose such a big part of the game's heritage.