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Cricket news - Smith and Archer - the two heroes who left Lord's spellbound

The Archer vs Smith showdown from Lord's, which lasted all of 16 balls, saw 15 runs scored and left Smith with two bruises

Steve Smith has hit the floor face-down. A collective gasp goes around Lord's as Jos Buttler runs in to check on him. Jofra Archer takes two steps towards the batsman he's felled before turning around and walking to the rough area on the pitch at the other end to rub his hands dry. If Test match cricket was a Rocky movie, Archer has just had his Ivan Drago moment. He's just knocked out, or so it seems, the indomitable foe. He's just done what he'd seemingly been designed and billed to do, eliminate the immovable force, especially when a woozy Smith is walked off the field.

He's already delivered a couple of hard blows to soften him up by then. There is one to the arm at over 90 mph, which leaves Smith writhing in pain and having to use a strap bandage. And there is another one on the fingers at 92 mph. But Smith just keeps getting up and fighting on. Now though it looks like England's Drago has connected with the killer blow on Australia's Balboa.

Test cricket is not a movie though. And that's why we love it. There are no good guys and bad guys here. There are only highly passionate and talented performers trying their best to get the better of each other and win games for their teams. The only reason Archer walks away from Smith is to put himself out of the situation and calm his own nerves down. And the only reason he's seen laughing 7-8 minutes post the incident while the Aussie batsman is still being treated is because Buttler's trying to get his head off the matter. And for 45 minutes at Lord's on Saturday (August 17) where Test cricket showed why it still remains the longest-running long-form drama of sport, both Smith and Archer are ultimate heroes.

Cricket's relationship with the bouncer has changed dramatically since Phillip Hughes after all. They don't brazenly talk about spilling the opposition's blood on the field or leaving them with "broken f&ck*n arms" anymore. And even if seeing Smith leave the field is what the whole of England and their players have been baying for over the last few weeks, including the PA at St. John's Wood tube station, nobody's happy to see him go, not this way. They aren't booing him. They are all instead on their feet clapping and cheering for him.

The stage is now Archer's to take over completely, and if not ironically to compensate for Smith's departure, which he does of course.

Archer has only been an international cricketer for five months, yet already at the most iconic ground in the world has two moments that will stay with him forever. One he'll always remember, another he'll never forget. But it's easy to forget that he's not been around forever. Even Stuart Broad said so at Lord's two days earlier.

It's just that the English are obsessed with the prodigious Bajan-born talent, and unabashedly so. They make no qualms about it either. Yes, they aren't averse to getting over-excited about potential superstars. Yes, they aren't averse to building them up to such hyperbolic extent that they often risk setting these expected superstars to fail. But it's different with Archer. Their obsession isn't based on hope but belief. Rarely has there been such hype about the Test debut of an English cricketer, not tagged as the next-Botham, or named Kevin Pietersen.

But it's not just the English who've sat with bated breath ever since Archer ambled in, after a brief false start, for his first delivery late on Day 2 in his first spell. It's been a different buzz too. Not one that usually accompanies the arrival of a new cricketing talent but more a cult hero of his generation.

But it was in his fifth spell on Day 4, by which time he'd bowled a third of the overs in the innings, where Archer showed why he is worth it all. Here was a young man bowling with an old ball at speeds that the English had rarely witnessed before at a ground that has seen it all. The sixth fastest spell of bowling ever recorded by an England pacer also included the fastest over and the fastest ball by anyone from this country anywhere in the world. And all this in his first-ever Test.

And Archer wasn't done even once his duel with Smith had come to a premature halt. He continued to clock over 90 mph with every delivery, he continued to get balls whizzing past the heads of the Aussies, and he continued to leave everyone at Lord's, including the hard-to-crack MCC members, gaping in awe. It was an eight-over spell, which filled English cricket with the promise of the kind of unbridled intimidation and menace that it hasn't seen since the days of John Snow, Frank Tyson and maybe as far back as Bodyline. Overnight, they'd just discovered a world-class operator who wasn't just going to get at the opposition's throats in short bursts but could stay there for lengthy periods and do it repeatedly during the course of the day. In an era which thrives on instant gratification and binge-watch, the Archer era with its explosive arrival seemed to be making a promise more of the long-running, episodic kind.

As Archer finally finished his spell though, Smith emerged on the screen again, his batting head-band on, waiting desperately to re-enter the battlefield. He'd been cleared by the doctors and as coach Justin Langer would reveal, Smith had unfinished business. "I can't get up on the (Lord's) honours board if I'm not batting," he'd tell his coach.

It's a strange sport Test cricket. It makes batsmen and bowlers fight it out for over five days to score as many runs as they can and grab as many wickets as there are available. But often it's a short-term period of play on one of those afternoons, where neither wickets fall nor too many runs are scored, that get etched in memory. Like the Archer vs Smith showdown from Lord's, which lasted all of 16 balls, saw 15 runs scored and left Smith with two bruises.

Though Smith did return after retiring hurt and spending 40 minutes getting his bearings right, his second foray was if anything anticlimactic. Still feeling his painful left forearm and visibly still shaken from the blow to the neck, he uncharacteristically slogged his way to a couple of boundaries off Chris Woakes - and also pulled off a majestic square drive off the back-foot - before shouldering arms to a full delivery headed towards his stumps. He then gave himself out by literally turning around and walking before inexplicably asking for a review and then continuing to walk off the field, having fallen 8 runs short of his goal of putting his name up on the honour's boards again. Maybe it was a good thing he didn't get to three-figures, especially since it would have come when he wasn't sharing the spotlight with Archer on a day that belonged to both of them, and how.

It's a face-off which will be recapped endlessly for years to come. So let's get started. The first five balls that Smith faced from Archer were rather uneventful, with the Aussie now well-set and approaching his 70s. Save the odd ball in the early 90 mph range, the debutant was still operating on cruise mode, looking to keep Smith in check, even bringing his white-ball repertoire to the fore with a couple of knuckle balls.

It was Smith who then threw the gauntlet by disdainfully smacking a length ball through the covers for four. Archer hardly failed to touch 90 mph from that point on, and probably might not for a few years to come. Two wild bouncers followed, each clocked at 93 mph, before the one that didn't rise enough at 92.4 and rammed into his left arm. It took Smith a few seconds to actually feel the pain, which seemed to burgeon rapidly, and you feared he'd actually cracked it. Smith wasn't budging though and was ready to continue with his brace on even if it looked like he didn't have enough feeling in his arm. Game on.

Would Archer make Smith use his battered arm by pitching full or would he look to target it again? The answer was of course the latter, but Smith was waiting for it and swung at it with a horizontal bat, getting a top-edge that flew to the boundary. The next ball was 6 miles quicker at 94 mph, but got the same response from the batsman, though the top-edge this time went aerially towards fine-leg for a single. Battle on.

The last ball of the over to Smith was 96 mph and jumped at him, ramming into his gloves as he rode the bounce but fell short of Buttler at short-leg. A resilient Pat Cummins then kept the two apart by bravely facing up to an Archer over, where every delivery was in the mid-90s range on the speedometer. At the other end, Smith was in visible agony after attempting to drive against Jack Leach. Then it was time again for the two gladiators to take centre-stage again.

Archer went for Smith's body again and got smashed with a typical Smith pull, where he doesn't always look to keep the ball on the ground and instead looks to clear square-leg, which he did here. Then came the unfortunate climax as Smith was left splayed on the pitch. The enthralling and breath-taking contest pitting the X-factor that English cricket had so desperately sought and found against world cricket's ultimate X-factor had just come to an end for now.

But as Smith lay on the floor and Archer stood looking away at the other side of the pitch, you knew this was just the beginning of a rivalry and the opening chapter of a career that looks set to hold world cricket hostage through this generation and the next. For, Test cricket's not a Rocky movie. And that's why we love it.

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