No butterflies for England's sleeping giant
Jofra Archer, who Joe Root revealed was asleep for the first ball of his World Cup debut, isn't likely to be fazed if thrown into the Ashes cauldron
Andrew Ramsey in London
14 August 2019, 01:33 AM AEST
If the captains' consensus provides a meaningful guide, nerves won't be an issue for Jofra Archer should he make his much-anticipated arrival as a Test cricketer on Wednesday.
Archer has been the hot topic of cricket conversations since his eligibility status – he was born in Barbados and was initially required to wait until 2022 before he could play for the country of his father's birth – was fast-tracked last year.
That excitement proved vindicated when Archer was not only a key component part of England's drought-breaking World Cup win, but was deemed so crucial he was called upon to bowl the high-stakes 'super over' that decided the final against New Zealand.
If that was not evidence enough that the 24-year-old's temperament is as laudable as his talent, rival skippers Joe Root and Tim Paine have highlighted that the Caribbean cool Archer brings to his cricket is not an elaborate bluff.
Root, who played alongside Archer in the World Cup, recalled the fast bowler's reaction to the hype that had built for years about England's hopes of winning the quadrennial tournament.
A wait that culminated in England's match against South Africa at The Oval, which officially launched the ICC showpiece event.
"I remember his first World Cup game," Root recalled with a smile at Lord's this week.
"We’d just done the anthems, it was obviously a huge occasion, playing South Africa ... I reckon before the first ball was bowled he was asleep in the dressing-room.
"He was making sure he was ready to go when he has to bowl.
"He is very relaxed, he knows what he needs to do to prepare well.
"For a young man he’s quite mature in terms of cricket, which is again a great quality to have.
“He’s very confident … Someone coming in with that attitude is just what you want."
Having played alongside Archer at Hobart Hurricanes in the KFC Big Bash League, including the BBL|07 final against Adelaide Strikers, Paine has also been privy to Archer's dressing room demeanour.
From his experience, the Australia skipper foreshadows that Archer's mood might only be negatively affected if his luck's out while playing the faddishly popular computer game for which he's developed an appetite.
"From the time I’ve spent with him, not much flusters him unless he has a bad night on Fortnite on the PlayStation," Paine said.
"That tends to get to him a bit more than the cricket, but obviously he is a pretty laid-back character.
"But Test match cricket is a different beast.
"Coming into this series, we knew Jofra was going to be a key player for them at some stage.
"We are a bit lucky given guys have faced him, albeit in Big Bash cricket.
"We know how good Jofra is, we know he bowls fast, we know he is very skillful, he is a great asset for them.
"It's not every day a six-foot five or six (inch) West Indian turns up on your doorstep.
"We know how good he is and we’re prepared to play him.
"It's his first Test match as well so there is going to be plenty of pressure on him.
"It's up to us to put him under pressure, whether that’s physically and making him bowl a lot of overs and make him back up day after day.
"I think that can test the very best of bowlers."
For his part, Archer was demonstrably reluctant to accept his likely debut as a given, noting on Monday that left-arm seamer Sam Curran (also yet to play an Ashes Test) is in the England squad and vying for a place in the starting XI.
Archer also suggested he was likely to feel a few butterflies on Wednesday morning at Lord's, despite what those who know him well have publicly indicated.
"I get a little bit nervous sometimes," Archer confessed at a media conference at Lord's on Monday.
"I guess the thing that would be different is probably red ball and white ball (cricket).
"I personally believe that, in Test cricket, you get a lot more opportunities to redeem yourself.
"In 50-over (cricket), if you don’t have a good 10 overs, that’s it, you’ve got to wait till the next game.
"You have ample chances to do it in a red ball game (and) I’ve played a lot more red-ball than I have white-ball.
"I do think it’s my preferred format anyway."
Perhaps taking a leaf from Archer's low-stress textbook, Root claimed he was unfazed by the reality the silken fast bowler has not played a first-class fixture since September last year.
Root claimed the international experience that Archer gained in the cauldron of competition the World Cup offered was great preparation for an Ashes battle.
And he foreshadowed that Archer's additional pace – he regularly tops speeds of 90mph (145kph) despite his easy, languid approach to the wicket – might deliver a crucial point of difference to the attack England took into the opening Test that Australia won comfortably.
"It’d be nice if he was staying up at 88-92mph, round that bracket, for the chances he gets to bowl," Root said of the way in which he hopes to deploy Archer if he's selected.
"He’s got a very good record in red-ball cricket.
"There will be question marks about his workloads coming into the game but I think importantly if we manage that well, he’s proven over the last couple of years when he has played county cricket that he can manage that.
"He’s very skillful as well.
"Everyone talks about his pace and his easy action, but he’s got some very good skills.
"He gets the ball moving around both ways.
"Factor that in with the pace he bowls, he will cause a lot of problems I’m sure."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval