Much has been said about Jofra Archer being England’s saviour to blast out the Australians.
But I can’t see him being as successful as the British tabloids, infamous for the exaggeration, suggest.
I am aware that Archer has a good first-class record, with 131 wickets at 24, but Sussex have been in Division 2 of the County competition. Wickets are wickets, but it cannot be denied that he hasn’t been facing the strongest competition in England, let alone the world. It’s very clear there is a stark difference between being able to decimate a second XI team stocked with under-20s and competing at the highest level.
Dean Jones highlighted that is was highly unsafe for Archer to play in that game due to the age of the opposition, and I agree. Archer was clearly at a much higher level than these young players, many of whom are being given a chance to develop into county players, not bowlers attempting to prove fitness for a Test berth.
In an almost ironic turn, Archer was then hammered in the second innings, going for a whopping 5.4 runs in his first eight overs and finishing with 1-78 from 19 overs, a highly uneconomical at 4.1 runs an over.
While he decimated the opposition in his first innings, taking 6-27, they clearly adapted to his rapid pace and quickly figured out how to blunt it. This will give hope to the Australian batting line-up – they need to be patient to make sure they survive the good balls and punish the bad balls, of which there will be many.
Why will there be many bad balls? Simple: Archer is a genius in ODI cricket. In the 50-over game he’s able to blast out opposition batsmen through sheer pace while alternating between yorkers and bouncers without any consistency. While he has a respectful economy of 3.10 in first-class cricket, it’s against some of the lesser batsmen in England against whom pace is enough to bowl them out.
Test Cricket is a different game. Archer will be coming up against the best batsman in the world and one of the best in history, Steve Smith, as well as other classy batsmen used to facing balls in excess of 145 kilometres per hour in the nets and in the Shield competition.
I don’t think Archer will be patient enough to stick to the plan required to get out the Australians cheaply. He is a classy one-day bowler, but I believe he will lack the consistency of someone like Mitchell Starc, which is what makes his Australian counterpart so lethal as a Test bowler.
The question for the English coaching set-up is whether they are able to make sure Archer doesn’t rely solely on pace, which he currently does. I cannot see how he will be able to maintain a plan by bowling in the same place over after over to dislodge a batsman, as unlike in one-day cricket, batsmen are able to be much more defensive in Test cricket and bat out Archer’s spells of pace.
The English cricketing fraternity will be bitterly disappointed by Archer’s returns this series, though they may be jubilant if he takes 3-100, claiming him to be the saviour of English cricket. This would be the headline if he cleans up the tail but nothing more.
If I were Joe Root, I would be extremely worried about how many runs Archer would leak, especially on the small English grounds on the fourth and fifth days. It’s something of a foreign concept to Archer, who is used to the ludicrous three days of County cricket, but that is another issue.
Another encouraging sign for both England and Australia was Archer’s rapid ton against Gloucestershire. As an Australian, I am encouraged by his carefree approach towards bowling off spinners and seamers. This bodes well for the best spinner in the world, Nathan Lyon, as he is often very successful against batsmen who try to take him down. Archer’s aggressive approach will not pay off in Test cricket.
It also bodes well for Australia’s six seamers, all of whom are world-class and extremely reliable. They will be able to choke Archer out of the batting crease with their fantastic line, length and patience.
Whilst Archer is a world-class one-day and T20 bowler, Test cricket is the real proving ground. Many have succeeded in the shorter formats but failed at the supreme form of cricket. Archer risks becoming the Paul Pogba of English cricket – a man with huge potential but lacking the consistency to achieve their full potential and caught up in a swirl of media worship.
That’s why Archer will flop in the Ashes when he comes up against players who know how to play extreme pace into the fourth and fifth day of a match. It will be interesting to see how he adapts from aggressive ODIs to the patient and defensive style of Test cricket.