Jofra Archer’s exclusion from England’s early list of probables for the 2019 ICC World Cup sparked an array of controversies. The news received a wider criticism with a host of big names taking to social media to vent their frustration. While the former Three Lions skipper Michael Vaughan tweeted, “Jofra will play the WC or I will be naked”, commentator Fabian Cowdrey said, “If Jofra Archer doesn’t get an Ashes spot, I will sing ‘Barbie girl’ on a busy tube.”
One could argue that such harsh reactions would have forced the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to include the 24-year-old in their World Cup squad, but his performance in the opening game against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday (May 30) was enough to dismiss any such claims.
Defending a ‘modest’ total of 311 on a track that saw the ball come nicely on to the bat for most of the game, Archer riled on his quick pace and accurate line to trouble the South Africans. In his seven overs, the Barbados-born was all over the Proteas, claiming three big wickets for just 27 runs at an economy of 3.85.
Though one just can’t argue the impact Ben Stokes had on the game, first with a well-timed 89 to ensure England crossed the 300 mark, then a fabulous catch close to the ropes to send Andile Phehlukwayo back to the hut and then the two wickets that wrapped up the tail, Archer still stood out for his brilliance that shattered the Protean spine.
So, what’s that, that went the hosts’ way? England have had skilful bowlers for years, men like James Anderson, Freddie Flintoff and Stuart Broad who can deceive the batsmen with their guile. But what they have lacked for so long is a man with the pace to unlock a good batting unit on surfaces offering the rest very little.
If the batsmen who have faced Archer in the past are to be believed, the youngster tends to generate a surprising amount of pace for a rather causal action, something that is sure to catch even the experienced batsmen by surprise. And at The Oval, things were no different. He accounted for two of South Africa’s top talents, Hashim Amla – a ball in excess of 90 mph that forced Amla to retire hurt with a suspected concussion – and then Faf du Plessis, who was lured into a pull, but the ball extracting something more than what he had expected, which resulted in a straight catch to Moeen Ali in the deep.
At the end of the day, the pre-tournament favourites England began their campaign with a dominant win. But if the remaining eight teams had their eyes glued to this game, they are sure to head back to the drawing board to figure out a way to tackle the ever-growing problem in Jofra Archer.