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Inside Mollie King and Stuart Broad’s loved up relationship – and the real reason he had to quit cricket

CRICKET hero Stuart Broad has told how his love for Saturdays singer Mollie King – and their year-old daughter Annabella – has helped him to accept quitting the game he loves.

The 37-year-old England star, one of the greatest Test bowlers ever, announced he was giving up the sport in July — and in new autobiography Broadly Speaking, he says it was a 50-50 decision to go ahead with retirement, right down to the wire.

Stuart Broad has told how his love for Saturdays singer Mollie King – and their year-old daughter Annabella – has helped him to accept quitting the game he loves

Stuart’s farewell came after steering England to victory at the Ashes

Mollie rose to fame as a member of girlband The Saturdays

The couple, dubbed the Posh and Becks of cricket, had dated on and off since 2012, but with Stuart travelling the world for his sport and Mollie busy as one fifth of a mega girlband, romance took a back seat.

But the couple reunited in 2019, Annabella arrived last November, and in his book, Stuart says he has no regrets about walking away from the sport that has dominated his life.

He writes: “Two major events within the past 12 months have provided a feeling of true contentment: becoming a father to Annabella and accepting that playing cricket is now only to be spoken about in the past tense.”

Stuart’s farewell came amid emotional scenes at The Oval, where he steered England to victory in the fifth Ashes Test against Australia as proud Mollie, 36, looked on.

He hit a six from the last ball he faced, then took a wicket, his 604th for England, with the final ball he bowled to win the match.

In his book Stuart also reveals how he got an unexpected phone call after leaving the field for the last time — from cricket fan Elton John.

He writes: “We had an awesome 15-minute chat, and it was a real ‘wow experience’.”

Stuart and Mollie had first got together after he revealed he fancied her at a sponsored event.

They had the same PR company and when Stuart tore an abdominal muscle during the 2010-2011 Ashes series and was forced to fly home, Mollie sent him a get-well message.

A few months later, she sent him a happy birthday note, revealing that it coincided with her mum’s birthday.

The couple started dating in London in 2012 and spent New Year’s Eve together, but later split.

Stuart says in his book: “Typical of young professionals, we were all over the place.

“In early 2013 I flew off to India for some one-dayers and then on to New Zealand.

“Mollie went to film in Los Angeles, and despite really enjoying each other’s company, being at opposite ends of the world didn’t help us stay in touch.

“It is fair to say we were two people putting their careers first at that stage in our lives.

“I would never have guessed how big an impact she would have later on mine, not only as my partner and mother of Annabella, but my cricket, helping to alleviate pressure in my final five years with England.”

Five years later, when the couple got back together in 2018, it was a make-or-break trip to Paris which made them realise they could make things work a second time around.

Stuart says: “We saw each other a couple of times before I went off on another tour of New Zealand.

“‘Oh no, not New Zealand again’, I thought.

“I didn’t want the same curse of five years previously striking once more, and with me living in Nottingham, Mollie in London, it could have shaped up as being another ‘I go away, she goes away’ situation.

“It felt like we needed to have a couple of nights and some time together to make a call on whether we could make things work, so two days after I got back from New Zealand, despite being worried about the jet lag, we were on our way to Paris on the Eurostar.

“We walked around the streets, sat and drank coffee, everything we could do in London. But somewhere else.”

Stuart hit a six from the last ball he faced, then took a wicket, his 604th for England, with the final ball he bowled to win the match

Frankie Bridge, Una Healy, Rochelle Humes, Vanessa White, and Mollie in The Saturdays

The pair committed to each other and by Christmas 2020, Stuart knew Mollie was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

But his efforts to propose were hampered by the pandemic.

Knowing Mollie would want to hug her parents Sue and Steve once he had popped the question, Stuart invited them to spend the festive season with them so he could propose on Christmas Eve.

But his plan was ruined when the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Brits to stay at home during a second lockdown.

So Stuart ended up proposing on New Year’s Day 2021, on a walk at London’s Richmond Hill, where Mollie and her sisters Laura and Ellen had played as children.

But it almost never happened, because someone was sitting on the bench where he planned to ask Mollie to marry him.

He said: “I had calculated that it was early morning, everyone would have been out partying the night before and lying in.

“They were. Apart from one bloke sitting on the park bench exactly in the spot where I wanted this romantic moment to take place, reading his paper, having a coffee.

“I was like, ‘Aaargghh!’ I gave him the eyes to suggest he moved on but, after doing another loop of the park, he was still there.

“So I persuaded Mollie to go round once more. Next time, he’d gone.

“We had about 15 minutes of enjoying the moment together before we walked up to the highest point of the hill, and to Mollie’s surprise, we were greeted by her mum and dad, who I’d arranged to be standing waiting at the top so she could share the excitement of the moment with them.”

The couple’s wedding plans were put on hold as the pandemic raged on — and then came tragedy when Mollie’s dad Steve died of cancer, less than a fortnight after Annabella was born last November.

He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour just three months earlier, and Stuart says he and Mollie had noticed he was acting strangely and “repeating himself a lot” during a walk in August 2022.

He writes: “Sadly, he did not have long to live and we felt that he was hanging on for Annabella’s arrival.

“It was of great comfort to Mollie that despite this horrible disease, Steve was able to hold Annabella in his arms.

“He died, surrounded by his girls, 11 days after she was born.

“It was an unbelievably emotional time for Mollie — having the incredible joy at the birth of our beautiful baby, while at the same time dealing with the grief of the devastating loss of her dad.

“I really don’t know how she managed it — I’m in awe of her inner strength and how she coped with both emotions. She’s truly amazing.”

He adds that had he not already pulled out of the Test games in Pakistan because his first baby was due, he would have stayed home once Steve was diagnosed, writing: “Family is infinitely more important than your day job.”

Stuart, son of teacher Carole and fellow cricketer Chris — who played 25 Tests as an opening bat for England — was himself pretty handy with a bat, besides being a star bowler.

In 167 Tests he scored more than 3,360 runs including the second-highest Test score ever by a No9 batter — 169 against Pakistan in August 2010.

In his book he says he chose to quit the game this summer after being left “furious” at being cut out of the 2022 West Indies tour.

But he reveals he was still undecided about whether to quit while on his way to see England captain Ben Stokes —- and called Mollie on FaceTime for some last-minute advice.

Stuart writes: “Mollie had always been good at motivating me to play, but less instructive now on the prospect of not playing, listening but ultimately telling me it had to be my call. ‘Go with your gut feeling’, she said.

“Problem was that I didn’t really have one, and so I simply had to go one way or the other. There was no point in procrastinating.

“It was either committing to another couple of years or put playing in the past. As I mulled it over, it still felt like a 50–50 call.

“Perhaps subconsciously, the fact I had barely seen Mollie and Annabella for the two previous months swayed me.

“It definitely makes you miss home, having a little daughter who is changing every day, and I want to be a dad who is there for her, takes her to school and watches her grow up.

“Not that there was any sense of payback to the decision to end my England career.

“No sense of duty to move to a new phase in life.

“Crucially though, there was something about having my two girls at home that made this decision feel easier as I walked along the hotel corridor towards Ben’s room.

“It filled my heart with joy, knowing that when this particular week in London was over, I would be able to spend more time with them.”

  • Broadly Speaking, by Stuart Broad, is out today (Hodder & Stoughton, hardback) £25.

Mollie and Stuart had dated on and off since 2012

The couple then reunited in 2019

In 167 Tests Stuart scored more than 3,360 runs including the second-highest Test score ever by a No9 batter — 169 against Pakistan in August 2010

Stuart’s father Chris was also a cricketer

Broadly Speaking, by Stuart Broad, is out today