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 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