How Jofra Archer ‘Came From Nowhere’ to Win England the World Cup
Jofra Archer was in the middle of it all.
A tied World Cup final and a ‘Super Over’ that was to decide the winner and it was an “outsider”, who wouldn’t even have qualified to play for England till November 2018, who was entrusted the duties of taking the team over the finish line.
He was given 15 runs to defend and he cut off the run-flow at exactly that, sending his adopted country into a wild celebration.
The “inventors” of cricket had finally gotten their share of the limelight, and as Eoin Morgan’s men stood atop the podium, experiencing unparalleled emotions, the eyes screened every player as it remembered the role each one played in the success of the side.
Before it stopped at Archer.
No Warm Welcome
"If Archer was to come in and someone was to miss out, it would be extremely unfortunate,” Chris Woakes had been quoted as saying a few days before England’s provisional squad was to be picked in April.
"It probably wouldn't be fair, morally, but at the same time it's the nature of international sport."
As Woakes would have it, Archer, who had not yet played an ODI game for England till April 2019, was not picked in the World Cup squad in the first go.
Rather, he was called upon to participate and show his skills in the ODI series against Pakistan to help determine if he was ready to play on the biggest stage.
England, who had been undone by their inconsistent pacers in the last two years, desperately needed a miserly bowler, who could vary his line and lengths perfectly, especially at the death. And Jofra Archer fit this bill.
England Changed Rules to Allow Archer Entry
England’s desperation to get Archer in became clear in November 2018 when the usually stringent ECB changed their rules to allow foreign players to be eligible for national selection after just three years of living in the country.
Back in 2012, England had extended the qualification rules from four to six years to allow local players more opportunities to don the national colours.
Archer, after all, had done enough (and more) to prove he was ready to play among the big boys.
Born on 1 April 1995 in his mother’s hometown of Bridgetown in Barbados, Archer had played an Under-19 World Cup for the West Indies before moving to England a few years back. He immediately declared his intention to play for his new country and would meet the qualification requirement by virtue of his father being from England.
While he needed to bide his time according to the ECB rules, he started showing off his skills playing first-class cricket for Sussex and made his debut against ‘Pakistanis’ on 8 July 2016. He has since played in five domestic T20 leagues, including the IPL and the Australian Big Bash.
Finally when the rules did allow him to make his England debut, in only four overs against Pakistan, Archer displayed pace, hostility, control and movement.
It forced Liam Plunkett, who had earlier raised doubts about upsetting the winning dynamics of the team, if Archer stepped in so close to the World Cup, to call him a “class act”. It forced former England skipper Michael Vaughan to joke that he had never seen a team miss a bowler so badly all these years, and it forced fans – who clearly wanted more of him – to question why he was rested in the second and third ODIs.
Impressing with his humility and integration into the dressing room with ease, that four-over spell was all it took for Archer to enter the World Cup team, edging out David Willey. Over the course of the next six weeks, the 24-year old emerged as a bowler England might not have wanted; but a bowler England had needed.
Below-par Numbers Forced Archer’s Selection
From 1 January 2017 till the series against Pakistan, England had picked up 332 wickets at an average of over 35.
While they had picked the most wickets in the interim after India – who led the charts with 451 wickets – England’s average and their economy rate let them down. Among India, South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Pakistan, England had the worst average, with their economy rate better only than Sri Lanka. Even teams like Zimbabwe, Scotland and UAE had a better economy rate in this time period. The strike rate of 37 was nowhere near the best as well, and while England’s batting was capable of gunning down any rival team, the same could not be said for their bowling attack.
Plunkett was the tenth highest wicket-taker in the two-and-a-half year period in international cricket with 56 wickets but his economy rate inched towards six. In fact, none of the seamers in contention for the World Cup squad had an economy of less than 5.40.
That and more is exactly what Archer did during the last six weeks.
Attacking Hashim Amla with a 145 kmph bouncer in the first game or coming in at a crucial time to send back Aaron Finch against Australia with a well-directed short ball, Archer peppered the batsman with variations that made him tough to handle. He was brilliant at the death against India, bowling slower ones and leg-cutters to Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni, and bringing the pace down when up against Hardik Pandya. He walked into the final with 19 wickets – already the most by an Englishman in a World Cup edition – and went on to leave his stamp in the summit clash as well.
Though he picked up just a scalp over the 11 overs that he bowled in the final, he troubled batters with his 150 kmph deliveries which were banged in short, changed his lengths when a batsman had started reading him and made advantage of the slope at Lord’s by threatening to make the ball come in to Kane Williamson before the late shape took it away. He gave away only 22 runs in his last 5 overs at the death, troubling his Kiwi rivals with sharp bouncers, slower deliveries and fast full tosses that stormed past helmets. It was a stirring sight.
And, though the World Cup ended rather anti-climatically for Archer, for the Super Over was not his best, the fact that Morgan went to him, a “newcomer”, in a moment that would have won or cost them the finals, signified how the team had adopted him as their go-to player.
England had become the best one-day team in the world without him, yet it is preposterous to think that they could have lifted the trophy without him.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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