England paceman Jofra Archer stylishly staked his claim for a debut in the second Test of the Ashes with six wickets and a century during a dominant display for Sussex’s second XI.
Archer was left out of the crushing first Test defeat to Australia after playing through the pain of a side strain in his country’s successful World Cup campaign.
The 24-year-old dispelled doubts about his fitness on Tuesday with first-innings figures of six for 27 from 12.1 overs, including four maidens, before producing a superb knock of 108.
His performance against a youthful Gloucestershire second string gives England a timely boost ahead of next week’s Lord’s Test following their heavy 251-run defeat in the series opener and the loss of James Anderson to injury.
Anderson was always expected to miss next week’s clash having bowled just four overs on the first morning before pulling up with a problem in his right calf. The 37-year-old, England’s record wicket-taker, was a bit-part player thereafter, managing only two brief cameos with the bat.
The ECB said his fitness will now be monitored “on an ongoing basis”, raising question marks over whether he will be seen again in the series.
Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie had backed his player ahead of the game, saying Archer is “100 per cent fit” and “must play” against Australia in London.
“I’ll be completely honest and I might be biased as coach at Sussex but I was surprised he didn’t play the first Test to be perfectly blunt. He should have played,” the Australian told Talksport.
“All this stuff about his side, look, he’s 100 per cent fit, he’s fine and ready to go.
“Personally I think England missed a trick by not playing him but he’ll certainly play at Lord’s.
“For me, pick a guy when he’s in form, going well so for me it’s a no-brainer.
“He must play this second Test. He adds another dimension to this England bowling attack – he’s got pace, bounce, movement off the seam, through the air.”
Archer justified the faith of Gillespie against a visiting team featuring 10 players aged 20 or under, including seven teenagers.
His pace caused plenty of problems for the inexperienced opposition, with Milo Ayers feeling the full force of his bowling when a delivery clattered his grille.
The high-profile presence of the Barbados-born World Cup winner attracted a smattering of spectators in the genteel surroundings of the Sussex countryside, with a single security guard patrolling the boundary.
Those who turned up to the Blackstone Academy Ground, around 10 miles north-west of Brighton, witnessed Archer dismiss Tom Price and Gareth Roderick, caught by Joe Billings and Jack Carson respectively, inside his opening five overs.
Archer claimed his third wicket of the day by removing the off stump of Matt Brewer and then, in the space of three balls in the 29th over, had Dominic Goodman caught by Tom Haines and struck Jack Worgan’s middle stump.
Gloucestershire top scorer Gregory Willows was Archer’s final victim, caught by Carson for 38 off the opening delivery of the 33rd over to leave the visitors 79 all out.
Sussex wicket-keeper Billings was playing in a match alongside Archer for the first time.
The 20-year-old said he had to adjust his starting position to deal with his team-mate’s pacey deliveries.
“This wicket’s a bit interesting actually. It’s one of those new hybrid wickets,” said Billings.
“I’ve never played on one before and it had a bit of extra pace and carry in it, so I was a bit further back than normal and obviously with Jof’s pace down the hill as well, I certainly was a bit further back than normal.
“I think he’s feeling fit and fresh. He certainly wanted to keep going out there, he wanted to keep bowling his overs as he’s been told to do and I think he’s happy with how it’s going.”
With the bat, Archer made 108 from 99 balls during a 104-minute innings which included 12 fours and four sixes, before being trapped lbw by Adrian Neill. At the close Sussex were 279 for eight.
A new batch of Dukes with a bigger seam was provided to help James Anderson and Stuart Broad the necessary ammunition to test Australian techniques, even if it exposed their own batsmen to the visitors’ potent attack.
It is a strategy employed brilliantly by England over the past few years, especially the India series last year. Then, the Dukes swung and seamed even after 60 overs with a change of ball barely a necessity. The result was that out of 19 innings, 400 was breached just once and 300 seven times. It was the best battle between bat and ball seen in a long time. Here, Australia scored nearly 300 and 500 in the first two innings.
According to The Telegraph, not enough balls of the 2018 vintage were made to last the Ashes in 2019. Hence, a new batch was prepared and looking at how the opening Test in Birmingham unfolded, they are not what England want.
While the focus was on Steve Smith’s remarkable pair of 140s and the injury to Anderson during the opening Test, the state of the balls escaped greater scrutiny.
What happened, especially in the second innings, was that despite a first-innings lead of 90, Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes couldn’t get wickets in a bunch. Smith, Mathew Wade and even pacer James Pattinson worked the ball around for the best part of Day Four as the Aussies batted at 4.3 runs per over in the second innings, something that would not have happened with the 2018 batch of Dukes.
While England have a lot of thinking to do, the bottomline is that if the pitches continue to remain good – without being too spicy – and the Dukes stay the way they are, Australia will be at home in England.
Australia’s bowlers play on tough pitches back home where the Kookaburra hardly does anything after the first 15 overs. It’s all backbreaking work thereafter. They will relish conditions like the one in Edgbaston, especially with Anderson now a doubt for not only the next match but also the series.
Let’s go back to the pivotal fourth Ashes Test in 2015 with England leading 2-1. Everything rode on the opening session of that Nottingham Test. England won the toss and bowled first on a green carpet. Stuart Broad took 8-15 and… you know what happened.
Just like England have a very specific formula in ODI cricket – pile on the runs on good batting pitches – they have a similar strategy in home Tests; have conditions where even if their own batsmen struggle, the opposition will be blown away for fewer runs.
However, the first Test has not followed that template. And the state of the Dukes is a major impediment. Maybe it was a bad bunch of balls. Hopefully, the Lord’s Test will see a batch similar to the 2018 ones. But if that isn’t the case, the red cherry will end up giving the hosts the blues.
James Anderson has been ruled out of the second Ashes Test, with England not certain when he will be fit to return from his calf injury.
England’s record wicket-taker broke down after just four overs in the series opener at Edgbaston and did not bowl again as Australia romped to a 251-run victory.
Scans have now confirmed he has no chance of taking part in next week’s game at Lord’s, with assessment taking place “on an ongoing basis” regarding his comeback.
Anderson, 37, was not expected to be on duty in the second Test after his bit-part role in Birmingham. The veteran had not played competitive cricket for a month leading into the match after injuring the same calf on duty for Lancashire and was restricted to two batting cameos at number 11 after pulling up on the first morning.
An England and Wales Cricket Board revealed an MRI scan had settled the matter.
“The MRI confirmed that Anderson has suffered a calf injury,” read a statement.
“As a result of the injury, he will commence a rehabilitation programme working with the England and Lancashire medical teams.
“Anderson will miss the second Test match, which starts at Lord’s on Wednesday August 14. He will be reassessed on an ongoing basis regarding his availability for the rest of Specsavers Ashes series.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan does not expect to see Anderson on duty again until the fourth Test at the earliest and warned his absence could have a big impact in both dressing rooms.
“I can’t see him playing too much of a role in this series,” he said on BBC 5 Live’s Tuffers and Vaughan Show.
“I can’t see how they’ll allow him to come back without playing at least a a couple of games first. You’re looking at, if everything goes rosey, Old Trafford, but that would probably be a risk.
“My concern is you don’t underestimate the psychological effect of Jimmy Anderson has on the England team, but also the positive effect it sends through the Australia team.
“For them to arrive next week and the week after to know they won’t be facing Jimmy…that is monstrous.”
A debut for Jofra Archer, one of the stars of England’s World Cup-winning campaign, could lessen the blow but he must first prove his own fitness for the rigours of Test cricket.
He was carrying a side strain throughout the tournament and has been sent to play for Sussex 2nd XI over the next three days to get long spells with the red ball under his belt.
England captain Joe Root denied England has gambled on Anderson’s fitness in the first place and is confident Archer will not represent a gamble if he gets through the required workload this week.
“Jimmy passed every medical testing. He was fit to play. It’s one of those freak scenarios where he pulled up,” said Root.
“It’s an easy thing to look back on and say we’d have done things differently. It was a unanimous decision for him to play.
“With Jofra, we’re in a slightly different situation where he’ll have played a lot of cricket in between and we’ll have a clearer idea of where he’s at. We’ll turn up to Lord’s and make sure in the next few days we don’t make any shotgun decisions.”
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