posted on 2019-08-07 20:58:23
posted by Michael Harrison
Image courtesy: Sky Sports
A major reason for Edgbaston hosting the first Test of the 2019 Ashes series was the citadel that it had been for England against Australia across formats since 2001. All that came crashing down over the last week as Tim Paine's Australian side showed plenty of resolve to break through the fortress. On their part, England were inept as well.
Missing James Anderson very early on the first day hurt the hosts badly, although that's no excuse for not closing the game when Australia were on the brink at 122/8. Once the visitors were let off the hook from there, Anderson's potential inability to bowl in the game was bound to hurt England and that's precisely what happened in the second innings.
Not only has Anderson's risked presence backfired at Edgbaston but also sees the premier fast bowler being ruled out of the Lord's Test match. On the look of it, this is a serious blow to England, especially given that it's a home series. But what it also does is give the raw Jofra Archer a Test debut at the Home of Cricket.
He's been the most talked-about English cricketer in recent months, starting from the time he gained eligibility to play for England. From divided opinion on his World Cup selection to having a sensational campaign in England's title glory, he's come such a long in such short duration that there is belief that he can replicate it in red-ball cricket too.
This belief isn't without evidence either. Archer has already played a reasonable amount of First-class cricket for Sussex and has remarkable stats in the four-day format. While he isn't as comfortable bowling swinging it, his prodigious seam movement at high speeds have often been a problem for opposition batsmen to contend with.
Having suffered a niggle after the World Cup, there were concerns over his fitness and hence, Archer was asked to prove his fitness. He did so by playing for a Sussex second XI in their three-day game against Gloucestershire second XI. Not only did he show his fitness but also breathed fire by snapping a six-wicket haul full of hostility and skill.
It's this aggression that England will need as they seek to level the series at Lord's. Of course, Anderson is an irreplaceable resource in English conditions but the promise that Archer brings is immense. His genuine pace will provide a cutting edge to the England attack which has struggled whenever the pitches have been devoid of help.
In the longer run, one of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes is bound to find their spot in danger from Archer, especially for away trips. Even in England, Archer will only get better as he learns to get more control of the swing, which isn't an easy task for someone of his speed. As of now, there's a lot riding on Archer from the England camp.
There's a certain Steve Smith in the opposition camp, a batsman whom England can just not dismiss cheaply it seems. While he seemed fairly comfortable against Archer in the World Cup, the Test match format would mean relentless examination. Of course, sheer pace doesn't deter Smith but in Archer, England have an aggressive option that they can unleash.
In many ways, Archer is England's last roll of the dice in the seam department for upsetting Australia's plans in the series. If the Barbados-born pacer finds his rhythm straight away, the visiting batsmen could find it difficult to handle. Genuine pace might not as much a problem but his ability to seam the ball could make him a threat, as could his bouncer.
Can Archer rise to the ever-increasing expectations around him in the most challenging format?? He did appear unfazed by the pressure during his white-ball initiation and took to international cricket like a fish to water. England will hope that he can do the same in red-ball cricket as well. Lord's will tell, or at least, give a hint of what's in store.