Alastair Cook has backed Stuart Broad to relish his new role as the pantomime villain for the next nine Ashes Tests, at least in Australian eyes, and suggested that he was following team policy by standing his ground rather than walking when reprieved by Aleem Dar during the first Test at Trent Bridge.
"I wouldn't expect any player to walk," said the England captain when asked if he had set any guidelines either before or in response to the storm provoked by Broad's behaviour, which led to calls for his suspension by the former West Indies bowler Michael Holding. "I am very surprised how much controversy it's caused. But the most important thing is that both sets of players don't seem too fussed about it."
Cook was equally unequivocal in his backing for Broad before the second Test at Lord's, where the 27-year-old took seven for 44 against New Zealand earlier this season and now needs two wickets to become the 15th England bowler to reach 200 in Test cricket. "He has always been a very combative cricketer and that is one of his great strengths," the captain said. "He is a great fighter. I think that is one of the reasons he has been so successful in international cricket.
"What happens off the field, whether you call him a hate figure or whatever, there is always one person on either side – it was Ricky Ponting a few years ago. If it is Broady, it's Broady. He is a fine cricketer and he can deal with anything.
"Every time he has fought for his place or been under pressure he has always delivered for us. He wouldn't be half the player he is without that edge he's got. He loves the competition, it brings out the best in him and actually a lot of his spells when he has taken five wickets very quickly have come when England have needed them the most – like New Zealand last time here at Lord's, and the Oval in 2009 [the last home Ashes series, where Broad took five for 37 to set up England's win]. He's a great character, great fighter and we're going to need 10 more of those guys over the next five days."
Broad has provided an insight into the development of that competitive edge in an interview with Square Mile magazine, "the leading luxury lifestyle magazine for the City of London". Given front-page billing as "The Enforcer", he describes his dismissal by Peter Siddle in the first Test of the last Ashes series in Brisbane in November 2010 as a major turning point. "I showed weakness to be intimated by their attempts to disintegrate me mentally," he says. "I've never slumped to that mindset since."
Cook offered no clues about who would support Broad and Jimmy Anderson as England's third seamer, and said that Chris Tremlett's presence in the nets for a second day running – where he even had a bat – was down to long-term planning rather than the possibility of him making a surprise appearance at Lord's. "He is an important member of our squad," Cook said of Tremlett, who could play against Australia at Hove next week in their three-day game against Sussex before the third Test at Old Trafford. "It is great he is bowling well for Surrey and we know how important he was for us in Australia 2010-11. If we can get him back bowling like that he throws his name into the ring."
Australia's captain Michael Clarke endured another agonisingly close defeat before his pre-match press conference in the England and Wales Cricket Board offices at the Nursery end, as his native New South Wales went down 12-10 to Queensland in the State of Origin rugby league decider in Sydney, condemning the Blues to a record-extending eighth consecutive series loss.
That could have put yet more strain on his much-discussed relationship with Shane Watson, formerly his vice captain and a proud Queenslander, following this week's furore amid reports that the former coach Mickey Arthur had described himself as "the meat in the sandwich" between the two players.
But Clarke, who had joked about Watson's guitar-playing prowess at a function at the Australia High Commission on Tuesday night, refused to contemplate what the pair will discuss when they stand at first and second slip at Lord's.
"I've spoken a lot in the past about my relationship with Shane – and so has Shane," he said. "So I'm not going to go into that. It's important for me to keep my eyes on the field. We as a team know we have a really important job to do in this Test match and for the rest of this series. So none of this will be a distraction to me personally and it certainly won't be to the team."
Shane Warne became the latest Australia great to share his Lord's experiences with the current team after their Wednesday practice session, following Glenn McGrath and Steve Waugh, as Clarke and the coach Darren Lehmann aim to avoid a repeat of England's victory here in 2009, only their second in 27 Ashes Tests at the ground since 1900. Despite the glorious forecast for all five days, play will not begin until 11.15am on Thursday morning because both teams will be presented to the Queen. Start delayed by reign?
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