Root miss­ing Archer’s venom in at­tempt to dis­miss tourists

Lack of real pace ham­pered Eng­land with the old ball Omit­ted bowler al­lowed to warm up in Old Traf­ford nets

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Tim Wig­more

It was a few min­utes be­fore a quar­ter to three. The Manch­ester sun had re­turned, and the lac­quer had long since worn off the new ball. With few alarms, West Indies had reached 171-3 mid­way through the 57th over.

Eng­land’s chances of regaining the Wis­den Tro­phy were dwin­dling by the ball.

Now, Joe Root did as Test cricket cap­tains have done through­out the ages. In lieu of try­ing to take wick­ets through con­ven­tional means, he sum­moned his most men­ac­ing fast bowler and asked him to bowl around the wicket to the righthande­rs, go­ing as far to leg the­ory as the laws of the game have per­mit­ted since Dou­glas Jar­dine hatched his plan to take down Don Brad­man in 1932-33.

Root’s plan even fell foul of those laws re­vised to pre­vent a re­peat of Body­line. Three balls into adopt­ing the tac­tic, Ben Stokes was called for a no-ball be­cause three men were be­hind square leg on the leg side.

Stokes adapted ad­mirably to the role of mid-in­nings en­forcer, pound­ing in from around the wicket with a leg gully and short leg ly­ing in wait. The 10th over of his spell yielded a de­served wicket, Kraigg Brath­waite chip­ping Stokes a re­turn catch. Yet all Stokes’s great skill and phe­nom­e­nal will could not quite dis­guise a sim­ple truth. When Eng­land were in need of relief from the mid-in­nings en­nui that had set in, the man Root would have most wanted to toss the ball to was warm­ing up in the nets, un­avail­able af­ter vi­o­lat­ing biose­cure pro­to­cols.

Stokes’s quick­est de­liv­ery of the day was 84.8mph; at the Ageas Bowl last week, the man who should have been ful­fill­ing the role of bowl­ing around-the-wicket bounc­ers when the ball had gone soft had reached 90.9mph.

Be­fore this se­ries, Stu­art Broad wrote that, for all the se­lec­to­rial un­cer­tainty, “you would think that Jofra Archer is in the best team 100 per cent”.

Archer’s mes­meris­ing bowl­ing in the se­cond in­nings at the Ageas Bowl il­lus­trated as much. Yet so, per­haps even more, did his ab­sence at Old Traf­ford.

Archer or no Archer, Eng­land’s at­tack has po­tency with the new ball – or, in­deed, the se­cond new ball. The prob­lem, as it has been for gen­er­a­tions of English teams, is what hap­pens when the new ball zip is gone on flat sur­faces.

And so, in a cu­ri­ous way, the ex­cel­lence of Stu­art Broad, and then Chris Woakes and Sam Cur­ran, with the se­cond new ball only em­pha­sised how much Eng­land had missed Archer with the old ball –

Master­ful: Jer­maine Black­wood is bowled by Stu­art Broad for a duck dur­ing day four of the se­cond Test at Old Traf­ford

the value of pace in is eter­nal. A 90mph yorker is the same de­liv­ery the world over. A 90mph bouncer is not quite the same, but a well-di­rected one is still a men­ace re­gard­less of the heat, the op­po­nents or the ground.

These are the gifts that Archer brings Eng­land: es­sen­tially, the ca­pac­ity to re­move the pitch from the tus­sle be­tween bats­man and bowler. Eng­land have other bowlers who can ex­ploit the new ball, just in very dif­fer­ent ways to Archer, but no one who has his sheer range of gifts when the ball has gone soft and the pitch is flat; even Mark Wood, who has Archer’s pace, is less ver­sa­tile.

As they aim to build a team able to win in all climes, Eng­land have pri­ori­tised pace, iden­ti­fy­ing it as es­sen­tial to open­ing up op­po­nents on flat pitches in the mid­dle of the in­nings.

This is a role that, for all their ex­cel­lence, Eng­land’s fast-medium bowlers have strug­gled to do. From overs 31-80, Eng­land’s main four right-arm fast-medium bowlers – James An­der­son, Broad, Stokes and Chris Woakes – are all av­er­ag­ing over 30 since the last Ashes; the first three all av­er­age 33 then, and Woakes av­er­ages 45.

It is only with more var­ied op­tions that Eng­land have had suc­cess with an older ball. Cur­ran, for all his rep­u­ta­tion as a new ball swing bowler, has ac­tu­ally av­er­aged just 21 with the old ball in this pe­riod; his dis­missal of Shai Hope with an

The prob­lem has al­ways been what hap­pens when the new-ball zip has gone on flat sur­faces

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