Beneath the blond hair and boyish good looks lay a fierce competitiveness and an almost unquenchable thirst for improvement in Stuart Broad, who has announced his international retirement.
Those knees-pumping hot streaks that took batting sides apart in a spell or two peppered his career – with eight for 15 against Australia on his Trent Bridge home ground in 2015 inarguably the highlight.
His place may have come under more regular scrutiny than James Anderson but only his long-time opening bowling partner has taken more Test wickets among seamers than Broad.
Broad, 37, claimed his 600th victim in England’s drawn fourth Ashes Test against Australia – his 166th Test appearance – and he was the bete-noire of some of the finest batters of his era.
Broad has terrorised David Warner throughout his career and removed the Australian opener 17 times to move level with West Indies greats Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, who both dismissed former England opener Michael Atherton 17 times during their Test careers.
Only former England seamer Alec Bedser, who had Arthur Morris out 18 times, and McGrath, who dismissed Atherton on 19 occasions, have removed a batsman more times than Broad has Warner.
While he lacked outright pace, Broad was a shrewd thinker, spirited and adaptable, extracting bounce from a 6ft 6in frame at home and overseas – even if he was ill-suited to an enforcer role.
A key component in England’s 2010 World Twenty20 win, he captained the T20 side 27 times between 2011-14 before being unceremoniously shuffled out of the white-ball set-up as part of Eoin Morgan’s reset.
As with Anderson, the decision prolonged the Test career of Broad, who nevertheless sits third in England’s all-time list of wicket-takers for both one-day internationals (178) and T20s (65), with the memory of being carted for six sixes in an over by India’s Yuvraj Singh in 2007 a distant one.
Broad, son of ex-England opening batter Chris, made a Test ton against Pakistan in 2010 but a badly broken nose four years later after being clattered by a Varun Aaron bumper curtailed any all-rounder ambitions. Before that incident he averaged 23.95 with the bat, which nosedived to 18.00 after it.
His interventions with ball in hand arguably swung three home Ashes series England’s way. He had his breakout moment with five for 37 in the 2009 Oval decider, including four wickets in 21 balls, while career-best match figures of 11 for 121 at Chester-le-Street sealed England’s 3-0 success in 2013.
Two years later, given a rare chance to shine in the injured Anderson’s absence, he had his finest hour as Australia’s batters edged everything and imploded to 60 all out in 18.3 overs. The image of Broad, hands cupped to his mouth in disbelief at a Ben Stokes grab, was the defining image in a 3-2 win.
“It was just one of those days you dream of,” Broad later reflected, with his haul taking him beyond 300 Test wickets.
“I never dreamt I’d be able to get eight wickets in a spell. My previous best-ever bowling was seven for 12 against Kimbolton School Under-15s. It’s great to have a personal best against Australia, one of the best teams in the world.”
Eight of Broad’s 20 five-wicket hauls came against England’s biggest rivals.
He also clearly got under their skin as he memorably refused to walk in the 2013 series opener after clearly edging to slip and was branded a “blatant cheat” by then Australia coach Darren Lehmann.
Ahead of the immediate return series later in the year, he was baited by an Australian paper but responded with six for 81 on the opening day, and entered the press conference clutching a copy of the day’s edition.
“Our psychologist did tests to see what kind of personalities we all are,” he said. “There are three guys in this side who thrive properly on getting abuse: Kevin Pietersen, myself and Matt Prior.
“They picked the good men to go at. There’s a little bit more niggle playing against the Aussies. It means so much that I feel it does bring the best out of me.”
Having been a peripheral part of the 2010-11 series win because of injury, he could do little to prevent a 5-0 whitewash in 2013-14 and a 4-0 drubbing in 2017-18.
His place seemed in jeopardy from that point onwards although his work ethic was outstanding, while he became a menace to left-handers bowling from round the wicket – as Warner found out in the 2019 and 2023 Ashes.
His spiky side emerged after being dropped for the first Test of the 2020 summer, with Broad describing himself as “frustrated, angry and gutted”.
He vindicated his return with 29 wickets in five matches at 13.41 against the West Indies, becoming just the sixth bowler to 500 Test dismissals, and went on to pass 600 during the fourth Test of the 2023 Ashes.