Ten weeks on from the suspension of England’s tour of Sri Lanka, Stuart Broad is back at a cricket ground, red ball in hand.
And the Nottinghamshire paceman admitted that the fact his return came at Trent Bridge – even in unusual, solitary circumstances – made it all the more special.
“There’s something about the place. Even if there’s no one else in the ground it has an aura,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.
“There are only a few grounds in the world that are similar: Cape Town, Lord’s, Sydney, the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. They all have a presence.
“I was only bowling at an empty net, and yet, when I left on both Thursday and Friday there was a real ‘wow’ feeling. It felt really good to be back out in the middle again.
“It was the first time I’d bowled properly since we returned from the tour of Sri Lanka. To be fair, although I’ve only bowled 12 overs so far, the action feels pretty solid.”
So much work has gone on behind the scenes to make this possible. Thanks to all the people @englandcricket & @trentbridge who have been involved, I really appreciate it. Felt great to be back out there having a bowl. Loved it. pic.twitter.com/uZNfPBKzJ3— Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8) May 21, 2020
Broad has been accompanied at Trent Bridge by Nottinghamshire’s physio James Pipe, with the duo following carefully-choreographed protocols to enhance their safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
It is a situation that has taken the seamer to parts of the venue he has never visited before.
“I drove into the car park at the Trent Bridge Inn, found my own parking space with no cars parked within two spaces of me, and when I got out I was signposted all the way to the field of play,” he said.
“There, I met up with James Pipe, and he showed me where my designated toilet was. Mine was a ladies one, as it happens.
“When we got out into the middle, the net had already been erected by Steve Birks, the groundsman, and the stumps were in the ground, with a set of balls also waiting for me.
“Those six brand new Dukes are assigned to me for this period of training. The theory is that only one skin comes into contact with them.
“So when I knocked one of the stumps out of the ground, I retrieved the ball and James, who has been instructed to wear gloves as part of the protocols, replaced the stump.
“I must say, that was a pleasing feeling — thankfully, they were well-watered holes!”
Building up, another 6 overs today at 70ish %. Sorry for James Pipes squeak, he’s stood behind a big net. Head band been added to stop sweat dripping down my face so hopefully I get out the habit of touching my face while bowling. pic.twitter.com/lSO8CXrm0N— Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8) May 22, 2020
Broad’s regime has included sets of ‘stag run’ sprints designed to replicate the speed and turning motions involved in bowling and fielding.
The 33-year-old has also embarked on a series of long-distance runs in recent weeks, but he conceded it would take time to build up his match fitness.
“Although I felt great, on the second morning I woke up at half past six to discover muscles I’d forgotten existed. That’s what bowling does to you!” he said.
“Even bending down to touch my toes caused me to grimace a little. I could feel my sides too.
“I wouldn’t call it pain; I was just very aware that my body had been doing something different again.
“Over the next couple of weeks, it will be about building up the loads. Whatever you might do in the gym, you need six-over spells at full intensity consistently to get the kind of fitness required for a Test match.”