"Don't stop me now! I'm having such a good time. I'm having a ball."
Moments after stumps on the third day, Freddie Mercury's jauntiest hit came over the loudspeakers.
"Don't stop me now! If you want to have a good time, just give me a call."
Alastair Cook and Jimmy Anderson were walking off, neither the type you'd expect to see singing their hearts out and dancing on the bar.
"Don't stop me! Having a good time. Don't stop me! Having a good time. I don't want to stop at all!"
But it was party time at the MCG, at least for the travelling England supporters, who had sung themselves hoarse (if not hoarse enough for some people).
There was a buzz around the great concrete coliseum, a sense of life and laughter injected into the Test match.
Really, Queen's song was channelling Stuart Broad, the catalyst who turned England's day from one of determinedly laying foundations to holding a festival on the ramparts.
We all understand the joys of tail-end batting. It breathes life into one side and deflates the other. People doing things they're not good at, to a level beyond their capacity, and succeeding?
There's a sense of wonder, and an illicit thrill. When it works in your team's favour, it feels like something you have no right to, a kid caught with a hand in the Christmas chocolates.
Broad's counterattacking 56 was made remarkable because of the bouncer. In short, that he's noticeably (and entirely reasonably) terrified of it.
This has been the context of his series with the bat, peppered to the point of making 12, 0, 3, 8, 2 and a wild 20 consisting of panicked slogs while running away from the ball.
At Perth, he looked so unwilling to even engage with the idea of being a batsman that I was genuinely quizzing people about whether he was the worst player with a Test hundred to his record. Jerome Taylor was the only real competitor.
This fear is for good reason, after Indian express bowler Varun Aaron speared a ball through the grille of Broad's helmet in 2014. He was remarkably candid about the after-effects, speaking about jolting awake from nightmares that he was about to be smashed in the face.
Wanting to avoid the short ball is no indictment on someone who had the courage to go back out there and keep playing. It just helps explain his rabbit-in-the-headlights tour.
A slow Melbourne pitch without Mitchell Starc helped. But Patrick Cummins is still plenty quick if you're scared of the ball, and Broad still looked awful on the gentler tracks at Brisbane and Adelaide.
Here, he was hit in the chest and helmet by Josh Hazlewood, third ball he faced. Cook came up for a word to settle him down, then gave him strike against Cummins halfway through the next over.
When it was Hazlewood's turn again, Cook took a single first ball. Then he called through a Broad single from the end of the over to give his partner a full set against Cummins.
This may seem insane, but perhaps it was a psychological masterstroke. By giving Broad strike, Cook was telling him that he expected him to be a batsman. There was a job to do.
After an evasive ramp over slip, and a fresh-air pull slog, Cook came down again to ask his partner to calm down.
"Even halfway through this afternoon, we were in danger of only getting a 60 or 70-run lead," Cook explained to ABC Grandstand after play.
"We needed more than that on this wicket.
"Broady played really well. It's probably only the second time we've ever batted together."
Remarkably, this is true, despite the 113 Tests they've shared. But Cook helped Broad mentally where no one else has had a clue how.
After the second chat, Broad got on his toes to defend a couple of short balls into the turf. It was a notable and immediate change to anything he's done this tour.
Cook kept taking singles early in overs, reinforcing trust and responsibility. Broad settled down through a couple of spin overs, and started prodding a run or two off the back foot instead of trying wallop everything.
Seeing Cook safely to the opener's double-century was another source of relief. And with all of that sorted, Broad began playing the way he can.
There were forcing strokes through cover, even from slightly shorter balls, cracked to the fence in a flash. A mighty six over long-on from Nathan Lyon, with a clean drive that seemed to employ very little effort when watched live.
Every run brought cheers from the English bays. Every boundary brought unbridled delight. The ground rang with song. The lead went past a hundred, and the partnership would follow.
"It was amazing, very special to be out there for Cooky's 200," Broad told ABC later. "I don't think the Barmy Army stopped singing for the whole partnership.
"It's awesome, it can help you as a batsman because you can switch off for those periods when you're not on strike, and listen to the fans have a sing-song.
"We had a bit of a fun. I was careful not to get Chef too far out of his bubble. He was in such a zone, and such a consistent rhythm."
It was only to raise his 50 that Broad went back to his indulgent area, the pull. It felt so good that he immediately plonked another over Lyon's head in the deep. The next big shot didn't come off.
"I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky, like a tiger defying the laws of gravity."
Freddie Mercury again, definitely not describing Usman Khawaja. Never known for graceful or fleet work in the field, the Australian batsman crashed to the turf like a side of beef from the fourth floor.
But he did somehow pin an airborne ball to his chest while so doing, having read Broad's uppercut and sprinted in from third man.
Broad hung around for a long time as replays circulated, hoping for a reprieve.
"Don't stop me, cos I'm having a good time. Don't stop me, cos I'm having a good time. I don't want to stop at all!"
Of course he didn't. He was having a ball.
They stopped him. But by then a job had well and truly been done. The lead was 147. Anderson would stay until stumps. More could come if he does the same on the fourth day.
And the other end? Cook batting like he never plans to leave the MCG. Although he looks weary with every step, his advance is inexorable. Batsmen are often described as storms; Cook is coastal erosion.
In the course of his 246, he knocked off Mahela Jayawardene, Shiv Chanderpaul, and Brian Lara on the all-time list for Test runs. He's now sixth, just short of 12,000, and could have bigger things in his sights.
And we might have spent today talking about Broad's batting, but he was England's most frugal and most dangerous with the ball in the first innings, taking 4 for 51 from 28 overs.
Plenty of people have huffed and puffed about those two being finished. Here, that pair made the key contributions. Perhaps the DJ gave them something to think about.
Don't stop me now.
The post Don't stop me now: Broad defies bouncer fears as Queen inspires England appeared first on News Wire Now.