England’s Hopes Of An Ashes Comeback Rests With Jofra Archer

Sussex v Gloucestershire - Second XI Championship

Jofra Archer is England's main hope for a series-leveling Ashes victory. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Sports moves fast. Boy, can England relate. The afterglow of England’s historic World Cup victory – achieved less than a calendar month ago – has faded. Now, things are looking grim. England have their backs against the wall heading into a pivotal second Test at Lord’s against a suddenly confident Australia, who recorded an all-time victory at Edgbaston.

After being in control for much of the opening three days, England were blown away over the last two days to suffer humiliation on home turf – a thrashing that was reserved for them during Ashes purgatory of the 1990s. Their home Ashes dominance is looking tenuous against an Australian opponent that has regained swagger for truly the first time since the ball-tampering debacle.

With so much on the line, let’s look at the main talking points.

Can Jofra Archer Be England’s Savior?

There is a lot of pressure on 24-year-old Jofra Archer, who will make his Test debut in the second Test. Without spearhead Jimmy Anderson, potentially for the rest of the series, England’s attack tired in Australia's second innings at Edgbaston and lacked venom. A ruthless Steve Smith took full advantage.

Archer, a fiery speedster, potentially solves the problem. The World Cup hero's exploits are well known with the white ball where he has become a specialist. But now comes the challenge of being able to sustain the fire for repeated spells that is demanded in Test cricket.

Cynics believe stamina could be his weak spot. Captain Joe Root will look to use Archer in short, sharp bursts but will he flame out too early?

Archer set tongues wagging with a scintillating display for Sussex’s second XI last week in his first match with the Duke balls in 11 months. It was a performance complete with stumps flying – a trademark of Archer fueling so much hope. It also makes him highly memeable on social media.

It is quite remarkable that Archer has become England’s main hope of clawing back into the series. The Barbados-born Archer’s selection in the World Cup squad was polarizing and the reception had some uncomfortable undertones about it.

But nothing unites quite like success on the pitch and if Archer can lead England to a series-leveling victory then he will ascend to a national hero.

Again.

How To Tame Steve Smith?

The former Australian captain conjured one of the greatest performances in Test history with his twin tons in the first Test. A jaw-dropping effort considering he hadn’t played a first-class match since being suspended from the ball-tampering saga in March 2018.

Smith showed he clearly hadn’t lost his game. If anything, he’s even sharper after having 12 months to further fine tune his impenetrable technique that completely baffles bowlers. And he’s hungrier than ever. You just know how long he’s been waiting to let out his anger and frustration at the crease.

By the end of the first Test, England seemed totally clueless on how to get him out. They will hope that mixing up their attack provides some answers. Archer’s extra pace could – in theory – cause problems and Smith, who shuffles across his crease, could be susceptible to lbw.

But many bowlers previously have tried to aim at his pads only to continually be thwarted by Smith’s bat. His hand-eye coordination is unparalleled and the thing that sets him apart as a batsman. It makes his unorthodox technique watertight.

Interestingly, Smith averages a modest 34 – well below his career mark of 63 - against slow-left armers although most of his struggles can be attributed to the spinning decks of the subcontinent. Still, England should be buoyed by the inclusion of left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who will be relied upon to present question marks to Smith.

If Archer and Leach fail to threaten, England are out of options. And Smith will be on his way to a series for the ages.

Will Australia Shuffle Their Ace Quicks Around?

Australian coach Justin Langer is an advocate for horses for courses selections. If Langer has a gut instinct, he will act. There will be no conservative selections and reportedly Josh Hazlewood will replace James Pattinson as Australia continues their rotation policy on the quicks.

After the attack gelled remarkably well in the series opener, it’s a gutsy but calculated call. There are fears Pattinson will struggle to back up having not played Test cricket in three years. He bowled well at Edgbaston but can reach further heights. With some rest, Pattinson could be a difference maker later in the series.

It means Mitchell Starc – the team’s spearhead for the past four years before the first Test – is likely to miss out again. Veteran Peter Siddle is set to be retained despite taking just two wickets in the first Test but he bowled with discipline and suffocated England’s batsmen – a role he performed so often during his peak years earlier this decade.

You feel Langer wants the trusted experience and guile of Siddle. He should get another chance as Siddle eyes finally being part of a successful Ashes team in the U.K. after three failed attempts previously.


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Sports moves fast. Boy, can England relate. The afterglow of England’s historic World Cup victory – achieved less than a calendar month ago – has faded. Now, things are looking grim. England have their backs against the wall heading into a pivotal second Test at Lord’s against a suddenly confident Australia, who recorded an all-time victory at Edgbaston.

After being in control for much of the opening three days, England were blown away over the last two days to suffer humiliation on home turf – a thrashing that was reserved for them during Ashes purgatory of the 1990s. Their home Ashes dominance is looking tenuous against an Australian opponent that has regained swagger for truly the first time since the ball-tampering debacle.

With so much on the line, let’s look at the main talking points.

Can Jofra Archer Be England’s Savior?

There is a lot of pressure on 24-year-old Jofra Archer, who will make his Test debut in the second Test. Without spearhead Jimmy Anderson, potentially for the rest of the series, England’s attack tired in Australia's second innings at Edgbaston and lacked venom. A ruthless Steve Smith took full advantage.

Archer, a fiery speedster, potentially solves the problem. The World Cup hero's exploits are well known with the white ball where he has become a specialist. But now comes the challenge of being able to sustain the fire for repeated spells that is demanded in Test cricket.

Cynics believe stamina could be his weak spot. Captain Joe Root will look to use Archer in short, sharp bursts but will he flame out too early?

Archer set tongues wagging with a scintillating display for Sussex’s second XI last week in his first match with the Duke balls in 11 months. It was a performance complete with stumps flying – a trademark of Archer fueling so much hope. It also makes him highly memeable on social media.

It is quite remarkable that Archer has become England’s main hope of clawing back into the series. The Barbados-born Archer’s selection in the World Cup squad was polarizing and the reception had some uncomfortable undertones about it.

But nothing unites quite like success on the pitch and if Archer can lead England to a series-leveling victory then he will ascend to a national hero.

Again.

How To Tame Steve Smith?

The former Australian captain conjured one of the greatest performances in Test history with his twin tons in the first Test. A jaw-dropping effort considering he hadn’t played a first-class match since being suspended from the ball-tampering saga in March 2018.

Smith showed he clearly hadn’t lost his game. If anything, he’s even sharper after having 12 months to further fine tune his impenetrable technique that completely baffles bowlers. And he’s hungrier than ever. You just know how long he’s been waiting to let out his anger and frustration at the crease.

By the end of the first Test, England seemed totally clueless on how to get him out. They will hope that mixing up their attack provides some answers. Archer’s extra pace could – in theory – cause problems and Smith, who shuffles across his crease, could be susceptible to lbw.

But many bowlers previously have tried to aim at his pads only to continually be thwarted by Smith’s bat. His hand-eye coordination is unparalleled and the thing that sets him apart as a batsman. It makes his unorthodox technique watertight.

Interestingly, Smith averages a modest 34 – well below his career mark of 63 - against slow-left armers although most of his struggles can be attributed to the spinning decks of the subcontinent. Still, England should be buoyed by the inclusion of left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who will be relied upon to present question marks to Smith.

If Archer and Leach fail to threaten, England are out of options. And Smith will be on his way to a series for the ages.

Will Australia Shuffle Their Ace Quicks Around?

Australian coach Justin Langer is an advocate for horses for courses selections. If Langer has a gut instinct, he will act. There will be no conservative selections and reportedly Josh Hazlewood will replace James Pattinson as Australia continues their rotation policy on the quicks.

After the attack gelled remarkably well in the series opener, it’s a gutsy but calculated call. There are fears Pattinson will struggle to back up having not played Test cricket in three years. He bowled well at Edgbaston but can reach further heights. With some rest, Pattinson could be a difference maker later in the series.

It means Mitchell Starc – the team’s spearhead for the past four years before the first Test – is likely to miss out again. Veteran Peter Siddle is set to be retained despite taking just two wickets in the first Test but he bowled with discipline and suffocated England’s batsmen – a role he performed so often during his peak years earlier this decade.

You feel Langer wants the trusted experience and guile of Siddle. He should get another chance as Siddle eyes finally being part of a successful Ashes team in the U.K. after three failed attempts previously.


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I am an accredited cricket journalist in Australia and have covered the sport around the world. Most notably, I reported on the 2017-18 Ashes – cricket’s greatest serie

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