I was lucky enough to be at Lord’s on Sunday to see the culmination of Jofra Archer’s debut and watching live it felt like I was witnessing a once-in-a-generation bowler operate.
Archer is undoubtedly a special talent. People may have scored more runs or taken more wickets on their Test debuts, but I’d struggle to think of anyone having such an immediate impact.
The 24-year-old came into the match carrying a whole heap of expectation and he dealt with the pressure in the best way, picking up where he left off in the World Cup.
He looks at home on the biggest stage and already looks England’s best bowler.
Like legendary bowlers Michael Holding and Andy Roberts, Archer is an imposing presence at the crease. Given a spicy Lord’s wicket he used it to the best of his ability, striking fear into the Australian batting line-up.
Australia have something different to think about now and that’s a huge positive for England going into the third Test in Leeds tomorrow.
Headingley’s pitch typically has a good carry and if the groundsman leaves a bit of grass on the top Archer will once again be lively to face.
I don’t think he, or any of England’s other fast bowlers, should get carried away with the bouncer though. It is a useful weapon to have, but Test match bowling is still primarily about other skills.
Another word of caution: England need to be careful not to over-bowl him. Archer bowled 44 overs at Lord’s, which was largely due to the delicate match situation – but you can’t expect him to do that every week.
He was running on adrenaline, down the slope from the Pavilion End with a nice breeze behind him, so it won’t have taken quite as much out of him.
But on slower surfaces Joe Root needs to limit him to short, sharp spells in order to protect him from injury.
Make or break
Even more so than the last Test, it’s make or break for England tomorrow. They have to win, because if Australia go 2-0 up then the Ashes are going back with them.
England should be full of confidence, so need to get on the front foot early on, keep hold of their emotions and dictate the match.
The two Tests are close together so the bowlers won’t have had much time to rest. Chris Woakes played in the World Cup, so has had a heavy workload, while Stuart Broad is 33 now so it can take more time to recover.
But they know the conditions well, so should be able to assess them, make plans and execute them.
Although the circumstances of his absence are sad, the loss of Steve Smith is a boost which improves their chances. Take away his runs – 378 of them in just three innings – and Australia are not the same side. England simply must take advantage.
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