When England come to play in the subcontinent, they expect an endless barrage of questions about spin: how they plan to play it, and who will bowl it well enough for them. For once, though, they go into the ICC World Twenty20 2014 in Chittagong without this challenge.
Later in the tournament, when England come up against Sri Lanka, some of those old wounds may be reopened, but when they start their campaign against New Zealand, at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium on Saturday (March 22) evening, it is the fitness of their captain and the conditions at the venue that will be on top of the mind.
Broad, who has struggled with a knee injury that has been his constant companion over the last few months, got a chance to test himself out in the warm-up match against India, and was confident of pulling up strongly, thanks to the enforced rest.
“It was quite a new position for me as a player, to have my first bowl and fitness test during a game, but with it being a warm-up game and India playing 15 players it was an opportunity that was presented to us,” said Broad. “It actually gave me a lot of confidence having had 12 balls in the middle. We know how different it is bowling in nets. I’m very confident of playing a part tomorrow and in the rest of the tournament. The last ten days, where I rested, were a positive. It has been a long winter for me with the number of overs I’ve bowled and those ten days have just freshened me up so I can really come firing into this World Cup.”
With the uncertainty around Broad being sorted – and he certainly did not appear in any obvious discomfort when England trained – there was time and space to address the other issue. All through this season, dew has played a major part in day-night fixtures at the venue. To try and counter this, England’s bowlers were handed wet balls, so spinners and pacemen alike could get used to bowling with a ball that was difficult to grip.
“It looks quite obvious dew is going to play a part,” said Broad. “We’re practising today with wet balls, getting the spinners bowling with wet balls, fielding with wet balls. It’s not something you do very often – I don’t think I’ve ever done it. I called Swanny (Graeme Swann) the other day, and he said he struggled with gripping the ball here in 2011. It’s something we have to take into consideration, because if you go in with three spinners and they can’t bowl, you’ve stuffed yourself a bit.”
Broad suggested that it was not only the spinners who would struggle with a wet ball. “It’s something to consider as a fast bowler, will your legcutters and offcutters grip, will you be able to get enough grip on it to make it worthwhile?” said Broad. “The wicket has gone through a lot better than I thought it would, as a quick bowler, so the bouncer may well be a really good ball to bowl. We’ve picked up some good information from the ground but we’re still not quite sure how much effect the dew will take so we’ll have to think on our feet tomorrow night.”
New Zealand concerned themselves less with the dew, perhaps because their seam bowlers were just excited to be presented with a surface that was true and had some grass cover on it. “I don’t think spin is going to be such a major factor here,” said Brendon McCullum, who said his team had used the trick of practising with wet balls in the past. “The extra pace and the grass here will work in our favour, rather than teams such as Sri Lanka.”
In their first game of the tournament, New Zealand were quite happy to be playing against a team missing a certain player. “We’re quite pleased not be up against Kevin Pietersen,” said McCullum. “We know England well, have played them quite a lot in the last year or so. We’ll be prepared.”
England: Stuart Broad (capt), Michael Lumb, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernbach, James Tredwell, Stephen Parry.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, Anton Devcich, Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham, Luke Ronchi (wk), Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Nathan McCullum, Mitchell McClenaghan, Trent Boult, Ronnie Hira.