Joe Finally Gets His Man. But Can It Help? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Joe finally gets his man. But can he help him?
Virat has Bumrah. Kane has Boult. Faf has Rabada.
Bowlers who can come into any situation and create a bit of magic. Take the new ball and rattle through a top order, make the old one sing and, when their captain needs them most, get a crucial breakthrough in between. In turn, they can make their captains look better. Virat Kohli without Bumrah is a bit like Wolverine without the Adamantium claws. Just an angry bloke with abs.
Joe Root was similarly stripped bare on day one at Leeds. Despite bowler-friendly conditions in the morning and afternoon, Australia galloped to 124 for two at a rate in excess of four an over. David Warner was back in form. Marnus Labuschagne, for the second time in a week, was channeling Steve Smith. An hour past tea where 79 runs were scored in 13 overs Root, in front of his home crowd, was being exposed as a captain bereft of ideas.
Then Joe remembered he had Archer.
These are unique, once-in-a-generation Test bowlers. Bumrah's trot, Boult's hoop, Rabada's whip, Jofra Archer's...everything? Perhaps it's the bouncer, but we'll find out soon enough what exactly his golden bullet is. Maybe, for now, it is simply being here at Joe's disposal.
Because as immaculate as James Anderson is and as domineering as Stuart Broad can be - the delivery to remove Travis Head wouldn't be out of place on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - Root suddenly has a man for all occasions.
It was Archer who took the first of those two wickets: Marcus Harris, fresh to the series, undone by a ball leaping and leaving him off a length with the 24-year old opening the bowling from the Rugby Stand End. Once Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes combined for a grim spell in tandem, game slipping away unnecessarily, Root gave the 24-year old a four-over burst.
David Warner, 61 in the bank, couldn't account for some straightening from around the wicket to find his edge through to Jonny Bairstow. Breakthrough achieved, a 111-run partnership ended. When Archer finished his spell, he also had Matthew Wade - bowled via the left-hander's thigh pad - while Broad had snared Head to wrestle back the advantage.
Just seven overs later and Archer returned to pick up three of the final four wickets. An opening burst, a century-stand broken, a tail dealt with - England's wunderkind a hand in all three, taking five of the final eight wickets to fall, for just 43 to finish with a maiden Test five-for - six for 45, to be precise. A collapse of Archer's making. Get used to that.
The reason Archer is a bowler for many occasions is down to brains rather than biomechanics.
Mining his Twitter feed is amusing for its nuggets of Jofradamus gold, but it also unearths someone with an insatiable appetite for the game. Not only has he consumed copious amounts of cricket over the years, he has learned from it, too. Playing all of his first class cricket in England has given him an appreciation of tracks that provide assistance and others which don't.
For instance, the Headingley pitch is on a camber, this the outfield is quick down the slopes. It also makes it difficult for bowlers on their first visit to adjust appropriately as they reach the pitch and go into their load-ups. Archer has only played one match at this ground previously, in List A cricket, which is also why he arrived late this morning. He's not familiar with the route, either. But the ridge is similar to that of his home parch.
"It's nice to play the Ashes in England at grounds you played at already and are familiar with," said Archer. "Sussex has the same hill so to me it doesn't feel like I've done anything different."
The other thing to note was his pace. Or rather, lack of it.
At Lord's, a harder surface, he averaged 142kph on the penultimate day, which left Smith in disarray and the rest of the Aussie batting card shook. Here, he was operating at 138kph all in, giving the seam the attention it deserved and realising the pitch and the atmospheric conditions were on his side.
"I don't need to run in and bowl 90mph every spell to get wickets. It's shown that today. There will be times in Test matches you have to focus on hitting your length. There will be times to ramp it up as well but you don't have to go into it every innings."
You almost have to double-take reading that. Here is a guy two Tests into his career, 30 first class matches chalked up with this one, talking about the toughest format like thousands before him have been over-egging it. So far, the biggest struggle of Archer's Test career has been finding an HDMI cable.
Even Warner, returning to form, could not help but draw comparisons between Archer and a recently-retired Test great.
"It's a bit like how Dale Steyn with the new ball tried to just use the conditions and then sort of ramp it up when they need to," he said. "That was world class bowling at its best."
He also likened Archer to Bumrah for his energy at the crease: the slow gather, "then thunderbolts". The rhythm, he says, is the hardest thing to get used to. But as Archer showed here, you can account for the action, but when what comes out of the hand is so on point, you're still in trouble. "He hit the right length,"said Warner, "and when you do that, you have to play at them all."
The interesting thing about Virat, Kane and Faf is they figured when and where to get the most from their particular stars. And it was telling after just one Test, Root was fielding questions about whether he needed to be wary of Archer's workload, who bowled a third of England's overs at Lord's.
What Root has in his possession is a once-in-a-generation talent who is not going to say no to another over, a change of ends or a near-back-breaking spell of short-pitch bowling. The onus is on Root to manage accordingly - expectations and overs.
Archer should not be used as a reset button: to come in, crank it up in every sense and help undo mistakes. If England are going to get the most of him, and for Archer to make the most of himself. Root needs to see the bigger picture.
Archer can give Root something he has never had, and Root owes Archer just as much in return.
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