WORLD CUP 2019
Jofra Archer felt he and Stokes will bowl together at some point when Steve Smith bats in Tuesday’s game © AFP
It is no secret that Twenty20 franchise cricket has blurred national lines within cricket. England are hoping they can exploit that with Jofra Archer, even against an Australia side they know so well.
Archer, who helped the hosts combat some unfamiliar faces in the Bangladesh side through his insight from the Bangladesh Premier League, will be looking to do the same against Steve Smith at Lord’s on Tuesday as England set about recovering from a harrowing 20-run defeat against Sri Lanka at Leeds on Friday that leaves their semi-final spot far from confirmed. Archer, along with England allrounder Ben Stokes, spent the Indian Premier League season with Smith as teammates for Rajasthan Royals.
Smith had a decent time of it in India, scoring 319 runs at an average of 39.87 ahead of his return to international cricket following his ban handed down to him by Cricket Australia for his part in the ball-tampering saga in March 2018. So far, he looks to have carried that form to the UK.
Since arriving with the Australia squad in March, he has struck 76 and 116 in warm-up matches against West Indies and England, respectively, continuing his form into the World Cup where he currently has 244 runs across six innings, averaging 40.66 with three half-centuries.
But as tournament leader for wickets along with Australian left-armer Mitchell Starc – both quicks on 15 wickets – the 24-year old is keen to ensure that friendship remains off the field. With the help of Stokes, he believes there are chinks in Smith’s armour to relay to the dressing room. The sort of chinks that can only be picked up by training alongside someone.
“That’s the thing,” starts Archer, “when you play with them you pick up on things you won’t normally notice when you’re just playing against them. So hopefully me and Ben we can get together – I think we might bowl together at some point as well – so we probably know what to do when he’s in.”
There were no bragging points to carry over from the Rajasthan nets: Archer, for the most part, did not bowl against Smith. Generally, given the intensity of the cricket and the schedules, it is inadvisable for fast bowlers to go full tilt at their own batsman. “A lot of the guys probably don’t want to face me or Oshan (Thomas) in the nets,” said Archer with a wry smile.
Nevertheless, all bets will be off on Tuesday: “He’s a really good guy. (But) cricket is cricket and I guess it’s time to be friends after. But until the game is over, there will be nothing friendly about it.”
As a quirk of the Big Bash League, Arhcer’s information on his opponents as a regular for Hobart Hurricanes over the last two years is limited somewhat by the fact the competition runs in tandem with the Australian international summer. Thus, a number of Australia’s marquee players do not get to turn out for the BBL franchises they are affiliated to.
He did, however, account for Glenn Maxwell twice. Australia’s wildcard has been limited to a handful of cameos but it would be no surprise if his sense of occasion saw him pull something special out of the bag against England. Archer is wary: “We do know his strong shots, we do know some of his weaker shots as well so we’ll just try limit him.”
Perhaps refreshingly, Archer is not someone to buy into the England-Australia hypetrain, which often can career into nonsense. That, in part, comes from a childhood rooted in the Caribbean. He appreciates the competitiveness but is confident he can be level throughout Tuesday’s match and what further encounters he may be privy to this summer.
“It is a pretty intense game between them and for me I’m not too sure if it will affect me coming in without having experienced it before. It could be an advantage, me not being part of what happened before.”
But, as with the rest of this squad, there will be no talk of Ashes just yet. England may be fourth on eight points, but two defeats mean further slip-ups could be dire for their semi-final chances. Sri Lanka sit fifth, two points behind, with Bangladesh a further point adrift. With Australia, India and New Zealand up next, a run of fixtures that started kind to the hosts now has banana skins right the way through to it’s conclusion on July 3.
“The guys were a bit more surprised than anything,” said Archer on Friday’s defeat. “We do know that anything can happen on the day and they bowled really well. The pressure has been on from the very first game. It is the World Cup so there are no easy teams and no easy games as we saw from the last game. There are no easy games at this tournament.
“I think if we keep playing the cricket we’ve been playing for the last couple of years, we’ll be fine. There is no need to try and change anything after one loss.”
Sunday’s training session took place at Merchant Taylors’ School in north-west London where all, bar Jason Roy, were in attendance. The opening batsman who suffered a hamstring tear six days ago has missed two matches against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Roy will have a scan tomorrow [Monday] morning to assess how his recovery has gone. From there, a decision will be made on his participation in the rest of the World Cup.