Australia's decision to dispense with the services of the underperforming Phillip Hughes caused quite a stir around the England dressing-room. The 20-year-old had been tipped to set the Ashes alight following an impressive spell in the County Championship with Middlesex before being discarded in unceremonious fashion by the tourists.
The inability of Hughes to justify the hype surrounding his selection and his susceptibility to the short-pitched ball forced the Australians into a dilemma. Do they keep faith in this young and supremely talented batsman or do they remove him from the firing line? Captain Ricky Ponting decided on the latter of the two and left Hughes to take out his frustration on Twitter instead. Now it is England's turn to be ruthless with Stuart Broad, the most likely to be axed ahead of Friday's fourth Test at Headingley.
At 23, Broad still has time on his side but his recent performances with the ball have shown that he lacks the killer instinct needed of a top-class bowler, even though he has done well with the bat, including yesterday's fine knock of 55. His failure to find any real movement, whether it be seam or swing, has seen him targeted for a merciless beating by the Australian batsmen. Broad's height does allow him to unleash a powerful bouncer but his haul of just four wickets from three Test matches and a career average of 29 places too much of a strain on his fellow bowlers.
Nobody can argue with Broad's potential, both with the ball and bat, but England cannot continue to carry a bowler who looks incapable of taking wickets. The money is on either Ryan Sidebottom or Steve Harmison being drafted into the squad for Headingley, with Broad likely to go back to Nottinghamshire. Sidebottom's ability to swing the ball may give him the edge over Harmison, who despite his selection in England's 13-man party for this contest, remains unable to win over the selectors.
The Durham man has not featured for the national side since England's ill-fated tour to the Caribbean last February, and has failed to show any signs of form since that harrowing first ball howler in the 2006/7 Ashes. The smart money therefore is on Yorkshireman Sidebottom getting the nod to play in front of his home crowd on Friday. The 31-year-old took eight wickets in Leeds last week for Nottinghamshire during their County Championship game to give the selectors plenty to think about over the coming days.
If, as seems likely, Broad is dropped it would not signal the end of his international career. Far from it. Instead, it could provide the young paceman with a dose of reality following a stellar start to his England journey. The challenge for Broad would be to come back stronger. With with so many years ahead of him, he remains a key to England's future. @Email:email@example.com