Archer takes aim Eng­land primed to face Aus­tralia

Mor­gan cools ex­pec­ta­tion on pace­man as opener re­gains spot Warner the dan­ger man with T20 av­er­age of 138 in past year

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Nick Hoult CHIEF CRICKET CORRESPOND­ENT

The last time Jofra Archer held a white ball in his hand for Eng­land was the fi­nal de­liv­ery of the World Cup fi­nal su­per over last year.

To­day, he will lead the at­tack in the open­ing Twenty20 in­ter­na­tional against Aus­tralia at the Ageas Bowl as Eng­land re­turn to al­most their full-strength team. A se­ries against old ri­vals Aus­tralia rounds off a sum­mer that has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions and, with the sec­ond match on Sun­day live on BBC One, Archer can give a wider au­di­ence a sight of his ex­cit­ing tal­ent.

Just like Joe Root, the Test cap­tain, Eoin Mor­gan cau­tioned against un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions for Archer, but his Ashes bat­tles with Aus­tralia last sum­mer, floor­ing Steve Smith at Lord’s, were grip­ping and his pres­ence adds ex­tra spice to Eng­land’s for­mi­da­ble white-ball team.

Ja­son Roy is still un­fit with a side strain and Ben Stokes is in New Zealand on leave for per­sonal rea­sons, but the re­turn of Archer and Jos But­tler, af­ter breaks fol­low­ing the Test se­ries with Pak­istan, gives Mor­gan two match-win­ners.

Mor­gan con­firmed that Jonny Bairstow and But­tler would open, with either Tom Ban­ton or Dawid Malan at three and the cap­tain at four. Ban­ton did well against Pak­istan, show­ing prom­ise open­ing with Bairstow, but makes way at the top of the or­der for But­tler, who has just en­joyed his best sum­mer in Test cricket with the bat.

“For the first time this sum­mer, we are see­ing the ma­jor­ity of our best team on the park, and that’s great. Bar in­jury and ab­sent play­ers, which is only a cou­ple, we are at full strength,” Mor­gan said. “We don’t have to pick our best XI ev­ery se­ries that we play, be­cause we can’t put all our eggs in one bas­ket, as we need 16 or 17 play­ers in the lead-up to a World Cup, all vy­ing for se­lec­tion in the best 15. We found in the lead-in to the 50-over World Cup, that was the best po­si­tion to be in.”

Mor­gan diplo­mat­i­cally de­scribed Aus­tralia as “favourites”, given their world No1 rank­ing in the for­mat, but they have not played com­pet­i­tive cricket since lock­down forced the can­cel­la­tion of a se­ries with New Zealand in March. They have played in­tra-squad games in Southamp­ton that Aaron Finch, the cap­tain, yes­ter­day de­scribed as “fan­tas­tic” qual­ity, but they play an Eng­land side fresh from a se­ries with Pak­istan who are match ready.

The hosts will be strength­ened, too, for the fi­nal chal­lenge of the sum­mer. Archer has played only one T20 match for Eng­land, his in

ter­na­tional de­but in Ire­land last May, but his pace, death-bowl­ing skills and T20 ex­pe­ri­ence in the In­dian Premier League and Big Bash strength­ens Eng­land’s at­tack, which is the team’s weak­est link.

“It’s great to have [Jofra] back. He’s one of our match-win­ners – he’s a huge as­set. I just think we need to man­age the level of ex­pec­ta­tion of what he pro­duces through­out the se­ries,” Mor­gan said. “He has played a lot dur­ing the sum­mer and he is ex­cited about play­ing in this se­ries, but we saw at Old Traf­ford in the first game [against Pak­istan], guys took a lit­tle bit of time to get into rhythm. So the level of ex­pec­ta­tion nat­u­rally will be high, but within rea­son.”

As far as rat­ings mat­ter in T20, this is a con­test between the top two ranked teams. Aus­tralia moved to No1 this year af­ter their best run in the for­mat. They have won nine of their past 11 games, pow­ered by the for­mi­da­ble force of David Warner, who av­er­ages 138 in T20 in­ter­na­tion­als in the past 12 months, at a strike rate of 142. Some­one will have to pro­vide the Stu­art Broad kryp­tonite when Warner bats to­day.

The pace of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cum­mins, and leg-spin of Adam Zampa, have given Aus­tralia’s at­tack po­tency, con­trol and va­ri­ety, while Finch, Smith and Glenn Maxwell can match even Eng­land’s punch­ing abil­ity.

These matches were orig­i­nally sched­uled for July and would have had ex­tra res­o­nance if Novem­ber’s T20 World Cup in Aus­tralia had still been sched­uled. Aus­tralia will now host the com­pe­ti­tion in 2022, af­ter

In­dia next year, when both sides will re­main strong con­tenders, de­spite con­di­tions.

“The plan­ning and strat­egy is pro­gress­ing nicely to next year’s World Cup,” Mor­gan said. “The ben­e­fit we have had over the last two years in T20 cricket is that be­cause it has been on the back seat be­hind 50-over cricket it has al­lowed us to build a squad of play­ers, or at least look at some play­ers to cre­ate strength in depth and per­for­mance has not been sac­ri­ficed at all.

“Our win-to-loss ra­tio is nearly 70 per cent over the last two-and-abit years. To put that into con­text, in the two years in the lead-up to the 50-over World Cup, our win­loss ra­tio was in the same sort of bracket. So, it is a nice place to be and with an ex­tra 12 months to con­tinue to learn about the squad.”

Jofra Archer bowls in the nets at the Ageas Bowl yes­ter­day ahead of his re­turn to lead the at­tack in the open­ing Twenty20 in­ter­na­tional against Aaron Finch’s Aus­tralia side to­day

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