Pace face-off with Mark Wood motivates Archer

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“It’s good competition really to have someone (like Wood) at the other end” – Archer © AFP

Jofra Archer is in high spirits after helping England to victory against Bangladesh. But his mood is about to change as he addresses the media in the post-match mixed zone.

The 24-year old has just taken figures of 3 for 29 in perhaps his most incisive spell for England. Things are all the sweeter after he was not only wicketless against Pakistan, but expensive too: his 10 overs conceding 79 runs as England uncharacteristically lost their way in the field.

This was also his quickest spell for England, thanks partly to the strong Cardiff wind on his back as he strutted in from the Cathedral Road End. His average speed up top was 145.84 kph – the fastest opening spell for England in ODIs since 2006 – and he peaked with a delivery 153.04 kph. However, as Archer is about to find out, it was not the quickest.

“Huh?!” comes the shock after he had boasted about being “a little bit quicker” than fellow speedster Mark Wood, only to be informed that Wood had a delivery clocked at 154 kph. “No he didn’t?!” responds Archer in disbelief.

It’s all tongue-in-cheek, as was Archer’s assertion of bias that “only Woody’s speed came up” on the big screen and none of his. Nevertheless, it is hard to remember a time when England had two bowlers capable of scaring the bejesus out of quality batsmen. Because they certainly do now.

“It’s good competition really to have someone (like Wood) at the other end,” said Archer. “If pushes you to do a bit better. Any little thing that can make you better makes the team better.”

The story goes that Darren Gough and Andy Caddick were at each other’s throats during the 30 Tests they spent together which drove them both to become two of England’s finest seamers. They refute the suggestion, especially Gough who calls Caddick a good friend, both now and during their playing days.

Archer and Wood will have a bit more time to get to know each other, but the mutual admiration is clear. Wood in particular is envious of Archer’s ability to just walk up and send the ball down at speeds he has to charge in and bend his back to replicate. Archer, though, cedes he is not obsessed with pace.

“It’s nice to see [his speeds] but I’m much more concerned about bowling well. If I bowl at just 90 and I’m bowling well, I’d be much more happier than bowling fast and going for six or seven an over.” Then again, he did enjoy pinning opening batsman Tamim Iqbal with a couple of short balls: “If I get hit once, I don’t want to be there anymore really. Imagine getting hit twice!”

The most eye-catching impact though came with his dismissal of left-hander Soumya Sarkar – bowled for just two. The speed was such that the ball flew off the middle-and-off bail, right over the boundary rope behind wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

“Ermm, it’s probably the first time,” he answered when asked if he had seen anything like that before. “I’ve seen it go for six off a helmet before! But this is the first time I’ve seen it go off the stumps.”

It is no surprise to those familiar with Archer’s franchise work that he has taken so quickly to international cricket. As he says himself, the pressure on him in these competitions has been great and many of these international batsmen are familiar adversaries. In fact, he was a source of knowledge on the Bangladesh line-up after playing with and against a number of them during his first stint of overseas Twenty20 in the Bangladesh Premier League.

His next challenge will be controlling his emotions which will be understandably high when he faces West Indies on Friday.

It was a snub at under-19 level that eventually set Archer on his path from Barbados to England honours. Many of his friends are in the opposition squad, including Carlos Brathwaite, Oshane Thomas and Fabian Allan. Typically, he says it’s “just another game of cricket”. But even he, with a push from BBC’s cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew, accepted the significance of such a fixture.

“I know them pretty good. I played with a few of the guys in under-19, so it will be good to actually play against them this time. I’ll be able to share some knowledge, but I do that whenever we play.”

He hopes there will be no hostility from the West Indies side. But one thing he is sure of is that family loyalties will not be tested.

“Some of my family are over right now, so they will go to that game. They will just want me to do well.”

While West Indies will look to come out on top, such is the camaraderie in the Caribbean when one of their own comes good, they’d probably even accept victory with Archer bagging a few consolation wickets.

Sourced from © Cricbuzz

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