LONDON: England captain Joe Root said fast bowler Jofra Archer had “lived up to the hype” with a dramatic Test debut against Australia at Lord’s.
World Cup winner Archer, who replaced the injured James Anderson in England’s team for the second Ashes Test, took five wickets in the drawn match, including 3-32 in Australia’s second innings on Sunday.
But Archer’s display, which almost helped England achieve an unlikely and series-levelling win in a match severely affected by rain, was about much more than economical figures.
The 24-year-old quick’s sheer speed gave England’s attack a new cutting edge.
Archer hit several Australians, with a fearsome bouncer that slammed into Steve Smith’s unprotected neck leading to a concussion that kept the star batsman off the field on the last day at Lord’s and could rule him out of the third Test in Leeds starting on Thursday.
“He’s come in and he really has made a massive impact, added a different dynamic to our bowling group and has given Australia something different to think about,” said Root.
“It’s really pleasing to see someone come in on Test debut and really shake up things and live up to the hype -– even some of the hype that he put on himself.
“He makes things happen when not many others in world cricket can. Such a unique action and way of bowling, and obviously natural pace, which is always going to be in the game on any surface.”
Root added: “When you’ve got that and the skill of other guys around it, it makes for a tasty combination and I think that’s one of the reasons why we always felt we were in the game tonight.
“It makes for a very interesting last three games.”
England set Australia a target of 267 to win in 48 overs after Root declared their second innings following Ben Stokes’s 115 not out.
Archer and left-arm spinner Jack Leach both took three wickets apiece but Marnus Labuschagne, Test cricket’s inaugural concussion substitute after coming in for Smith, top-scored with 59 in an Australia total of 154-6 that secured a draw.
Labuschagne’s innings, which ended with a disputed catch by Root, was all the more impressive given the second ball he faced saw him hit flush on the grille of his helmet by a 91.6 mph Archer bouncer.
“I thought Jofra bowled really well,” said Australia captain Tim Paine.
“Guys bowling at that pace take time to get used to and Jofra bowls from quite a height. He gets steep bounce.”
This result left Australia 1-0 up in the five-match series following a 251-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston.
But Root said: “I thought that we threw everything at them there, gave ourselves a good amount of overs to try and create things and sometimes you need absolutely everything to go for you.
“Credit to Australia, they managed to hang on.”
– ‘Superb Labuschagne’ –
Much of that was down to Labuschagne, with Paine joking Australia wanted two batsmen to replace Smith, who scored twin hundreds at Edgbaston in his first Test back after completing a 12-month ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal.
But on a more serious note, wicketkeeper Paine added: “Marnus played superbly.
“He got hit hard in the face second ball and I thought he showed great character, great skill and great technique.
“He came in today and batted as well as anyone in the Test match in, I think, the hardest conditions. It was dark, it was spinning, it was fast and moving around a bit.”
Paine insisted Australia were well worth the draw.
“I wouldn’t say it was a great escape at all. It’s 1-0, we go to a Test match next week in Leeds in a great position,” he said.
“There will be times in the three Tests when England are in control, and we will be in control. It’s about taking that winning momentum.”