LONDON – England captain Joe Root is thrilled, his opposite number Tim Paine is wary and spin legend Shane Warne anticipates a major challenge for marquee Australia batsman Steve Smith.
It is all part of the hype surrounding the expected Test debut of Barbadian fast bowling sensation, Jofra Archer, as England look to level the series at Lord’s following their 251-run thrashing in the opening Test a fortnight ago at Edgbaston.
Archer is almost certain to replace injured veteran seamer Jimmy Anderson in the final XI and following his World Cup exploits, and expectations of the 24-year-old are already sky-high.
However, Root said he was impressed with the way Archer had gone about his business in the buildup to the match.
“He is certainly very confident and that’s great to see in a young guy, as he should be after the World Cup,” Root said today.
“And, as he made very clear, it’s his preferred format so again I’m very excited to see at the start of his journey.
“If anything, it will motivate him and when he gets the chance he will be desperate to prove to everyone how good he is. That’s what you want and he won’t shy away from the challenge.”
The worry over Archer is that he has played a single first class match inside the last 11 months – last September when he turned out for his County Sussex in the championship.
Since then, he has enjoyed a steady diet of white-ball cricket, mostly in the Twenty20 format, before turning out in the World Cup for England where he was their leading bowler with 20 wickets.
Archer has already been exposed to the Australians, having played two seasons of Big Bash League Down Under and Paine believes that could serve as a plus.
“A lot of our guys have seen Jofra or faced him, which is a plus,” he said.
“It’s been in white-ball cricket but we’ve actually faced him in Australia where conditions suit fast bowling. We’ve seen him at his fastest, they know what to expect, they know how skillful he is and how good he is.
“Like most bowlers that play Test cricket there will be times where he’s going to be a real threat and we’re going to have to weather that.”
England will hope Archer can be the weapon in their arsenal that dislodges Smith, who belted hundreds in both innings at Edgbaston in his return to Test cricket following his ball-tampering ban.
And Warne said Archer’s pace alone should be of concern for Australia’s master stroke-maker.
“Obviously I would love to see Steve go on and score a hundred in every single innings for the rest of the Ashes but with Jofra coming in I think he’ll be set to face his biggest challenge yet and this could make the difference in the upcoming Tests,” he pointed out.
“No one likes to face tall 90 mph bowlers.” (CMC)