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STUART BROAD: Every day Brendan McCullum says “Morning, Hawk.” It’s fair to say I’ve gotten lighter!

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The Oval holds a strong place in the hearts of many players because it’s where you end the summers at home, and – if you’re lucky – it’s where you celebrate Test Series victories. And the one about South Africa was special for many reasons.

First, we were able to pay our respects after Her Majesty’s death, and the silence of a pin drop on a property filled with 25,000 people before playing and being part of the singing of God Save the King for the first time in a sports venue will live long in the memory of myself and all players involved.

Fittingly, we then delivered a fine test match performance to secure a win in just over two days.

The Oval paid tribute to Her Majesty, The Queen, ahead of England’s extensive test win

It ended what felt like the most incredible summer to me, because without trampling on old ground, I was as close as I’ve ever been to never experiencing that winning feeling on the international cricket pitch again with the way I feel. felt in March.

I was pretty devastated after being left out of the West Indies tour and I think it allowed me to appreciate everything that came my way after that.

What made it so memorable – yes, six out of seven wins is incredible, yes Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes should be credited for creating a different style of cricket – is being part of a team where every player can look back and say, “I contributed to a test match win at one point.”

With James Anderson (R) we come for the wicket-taking bowling partnership record

With James Anderson (R) we come for the wicket-taking bowling partnership record

On a personal level, it’s probably fair to say that I’ve gotten a little lighter, been less structured with my approach, relaxed and had more fun. I really enjoyed the aura that Brendon and Stokes have brought to the team.

On the pitch, I’ve been part of a bowling group just thinking about getting 10 wickets as fast as possible, not worrying about the economy at all, and that actually takes some pressure off.

You always keep four receipts, and if you go at six, you know that no one in the locker room or on the field is saying, ‘Oh god, he’s going crazy.’

We all participated in the game plan. If I bowl and get hit for four or six I’m fine because I know it’s not about fours or sixes it’s the wickets column so taking 29 and finishing as the leading wicket taker for the team for the summer means that I have contributed positively.

It was also an honor to go beyond Glenn McGrath’s career Test wicket tally on our last bowling day of the summer. McGrath was a hero of mine, someone I followed in the yard, and the reason I wanted to be a bowler.

It’s incredible to be there in his kind of company and being in a one-two punch with my wonderful friend Jimmy Anderson as the most prolific seafarers in Testcricket. It also raised a smile or two that I took the 564th wicket on Jimmy’s fourth birthday going past Glenn.

During the celebrations I put on my ‘You Have To Call Me Night Hawk’ T-shirt. It’s a phrase that Will Ferrell comes out with in the movie Step Brothers. I wore it to Lord’s at the beginning of the South Africa series and the guys thought it was funny so got another outing.

My 'You Have To Call Me Nighthawk' shirt made a second outing after lighting up the mood

My ‘You Have To Call Me Nighthawk’ shirt made a second outing after lighting up the mood

England head coach Brendon McCullum now says 'Morning, Hawk' when he sees me every day

England head coach Brendon McCullum now says ‘Morning, Hawk’ when he sees me every day

Funnily enough, since July and the first time I was asked to turn the night watchman role into something that fits our team’s offensive vision, Baz McCullum hasn’t called me Broady once. Every day he walks into the locker room, he says, Tomorrow, Hawk.

It sums up the atmosphere of the camp in England at the moment. Without putting an unprofessional spin on it, I can honestly say that the past four months have felt exactly like playing for a club you love, with the camaraderie, friendship, taking mickeys and nicknames.

One of the things that has developed is an important sign of any team conversation. Jack Leach is very quiet but has a very dry sense of humor and when Baz and Stokes have finished talking Baz ends up asking, “Anything else to add, Leachy?” The deadpan answer, after a pause, is, “No, I think you covered it pretty well.” In my last column, I vowed to increase my competitive advantage ahead of the Old Trafford Test victory. At the time I hadn’t expected to bowl first and the plan for Ollie Robinson to take the new ball was conceived a few days later when I was a passenger in Stokes’ car after playing a round of golf.

He asked me what I would do with Robbo, clearly someone whose is a really good new ball bowler. He was eager to get him into the game because he had had a long time out, there were questions about his fitness and there was a bit of pressure on him.

My answer was ‘yes, I think he should take the new ball, but that doesn’t mean he has to take the second new ball.’ And that we had to be flexible, because if we had played against Australia the following week, and it was David Warner who went to work, I’d want it.

In this team, things are not set in stone now. It’s about being adaptable and adaptable. You’ve seen Alex Lees dance across the track to the new ball, Ollie Pope successfully to a new role on No. 3, Joe Root reverse ramp for six.

Players have generally stuck to their strengths but are always committed to what the team needs at any given time.

As the first sub, I was asked to extend the period of pressure on the batters and I actually felt like I did as I took a wicket in my first over or second over in three of the four innings.

I’ve always been someone who needed new challenges and I’ve always maintained that if I’m not working on something, trying to develop something technically or mentally or physically, my training will become stale and I will become stale as a competitive athlete.

I'm excited about my remaining career in England with Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and others

I’m excited about my remaining career in England with Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and others

It got me excited about the rest of my career in England. And that doesn’t mean we should look ahead to next year’s Ashes. We’ve made that mistake before.

Baz actually has a saying, ‘Let’s play where your feet are’, and that’s been such a strong point of ours all summer. We have stayed in the moment. So I’m just thinking about the next test match I’ll play, the strongest I’ve ever been. At 36, that’s quite a lot to say.

I’m going to train five or six days a week specifically for fast bowling. So that when I’m selected next time, I’ll be in good shape.

Normally I do technical work, and I made an adjustment to the Oval, turning my shoulders a bit, like Dominic Cork used to do, to get my wrist position better on release. It helped me swing the ball. But when the calendar ticks through to October 1, I’ll be kicking myself into a new fitness regime.

Not long after, selection for the Pakistan Test series will take place and whether I will make that tour is yet to be decided.

Of course I want to be home well into November when Mollie and I are expecting our first child, so that will be part of the selection interviews. My job is to make sure I’m ready when I’m called up again and I look forward to that with an enthusiasm that has reached another level in recent weeks.

Team selection for the December tests in Pakistan could also be about becoming a father

Team selection for the December tests in Pakistan could also be about becoming a father

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