Stuart Broad has always been my favourite player. Ever since he played Pakistan in a few ODIs in 2006, he was my favourite. I loved his boyish enthusiasm as he would run in, and his joyous celebrations when he would take a wicket. I followed his career closely; from being snubbed by Fletcher for the Australia ODI tour, to being called up late for the finals; from missing out on the World Cup before replacing Jon Lewis; establishing himself in the ODI side under Peter Moores. I was gutted when Chris Tremlett was picked for the India test series ahead of Broad. I stayed up late to watch him eventually make his test bow in Sri Lanka. Being picked in New Zealand ahead of Hoggard and never looking back. Taking THAT five for and winning the Ashes last year. Winning the World Cup.
Stuart Broad could always bat. His dad had 6 test centuries, it was genetically written in the stars. He had (along with Ravi Bopara) a record England ODI stand. He had a golden summer v New Zealand and South Africa where he regularly made fifties. He even got promoted to number seven for the fourth Ashes test. He had all the shots; drives, cuts, clips through midwicket. He was an elegant late-order batsman - too good to be considered a tail-ender. He was born to score test centuries.
While his stock continued to rise with the ball, fortunes with the bat decreased. A poor run of form led to relegation to number nine - far too low for a man seen as Flintoff's natural replacement at seven only twelve months ago. But as upset and angry as he must have been, his poor performances had deserved it.
Broad walked to the crease on Friday at 102-7. Ducks for Pietersen, Collingwood, Morgan and the man preferred to him at eight Swann. Amir was getting prodigious swing. Broad wasn't flustered. This was not a tail-enders innings.
Text book drives, pulls and hooks (including a hooked six off Amir). Broad looked every inch a class test batsman, no scratchy edges or chancy singles. Matching Jonathan Trott shot for shot after passing fifty, Broad sauntered through the sixties, skipped through the seventies and eased through the eighties. Yes, he was nervous in the nineties, but who wouldn't be? Passing 91, his previous top ever score was just another milestone after also reaching his 1000th test run.
On 98, left arm run leaker Wahab Riaz gave Broad a leg stump half volley. As Broad lifted it away for three, the atmosphere was electric. The ovation was immediate, and continued well after Broad had gone through the rigmarole of kissing the badge and waving the bat. Lord's rose as one to celebrate an immense innings.
Given the situation, given the conditions and given the moment, it was up there with the best. As a Stuart Broad fan, it was equally as special, and I was glad to be there to witness it. When Broad eventually departed for 169, he and Trott had put on over 330 for the 8th wicket - breaking all sorts of records and turning the game on its head.
Stuart Broad may not be the most popular player around the world, but to me he's amongst my favourites. He may not quite have reached "Swann" status yet, but he's not far off it. It may not have been as good an innings as Trott's, but it was just as important. So congratulate Stuart Broad, for the innings of his life and maiden first class century. Here's to many more!