Joe Root has admitted he is still learning how best to handle Jofra Archer and cautioned against expecting too much of England’s newest fast-bowling talent, after a debut series in which Archer collected 22 wickets from four Tests while showcasing both searing pace and impressive control.
Archer helped set up victory at The Oval with a first-innings 6 for 62, as England came from behind to secure a rare drawn Ashes series. Although he finished wicketless in the second innings, his high-intensity duel with Australia centurion Matthew Wade, who was peppered with short balls during a spell in which Archer’s pace topped 95mph, was an arresting spectacle that helped lift the crowd as England pursued a breakthrough on the fourth evening.
His rise to becoming an integral part of England’s planning has been almost as rapid as his bowling. Having delivered the Super Over that led to England claiming their maiden World Cup at Lord’s in mid-July, Archer went on to make a memorable Test debut on the same ground, landing a concussive blow on Australia’s leading batsman, Steven Smith, before claiming six-wicket hauls in each of England’s victories.
There have already been concerns about his workload, however. He bowled 44 overs in his first Test outing and sent down 156 across the series – behind only Pat Cummins, Stuart Broad (who both played a Test more) and Josh Hazlewood, among pace bowlers.
“He’s come in and been fantastic,” Root said. “Four Test matches, two six-fors. He has a way of having a huge impact on the game, you saw his spell here, it just changed the whole atmosphere of the ground, was incredible really. For someone right at the beginning of his career to have such a gift is entertaining, it’s great to be able to captain that and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of his journey.
“When I faced him in the nets against the red ball, it was clear he was going to be something special. [But] we’ve got to be careful of expecting too much of him. He’s a young guy at the start of his career, playing in three formats, and he’s still learning. I’m still learning how to get the best out of him as captain.
“But one thing you can expect is he’s going to entertain and make things happen. At times he’s not going to bowl at 90mph, but he’ll go at two-and-a-half an over and create chances. I think making sure we don’t expect him to average 12 is something really important, while also knowing he’s got that ability to turn a game.”
Archer’s stamina has been as notable as his speeds – his contest with Wade, which often saw Archer end his follow-through a few yards from the batsman, lasted for eight adrenalin-fuelled overs after tea – but Trevor Bayliss, England’s outgoing head coach, suggested it would be wise to allow him to deliver “thunderbolts” more sparingly as his career develops.
“I think maybe in Test cricket, I know Joe had relied on him to go with some longer spells this series, but I think looking forward it might be a case that he comes in a little bit shorter spells,” he said. “Four or five overs. Come on, bowl a few thunderbolts, and have a rest and then come back on a little bit later.”
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