In Depth

‘Bowling freak’: what makes Jofra Archer such a terrifying proposition?

England star recorded speeds of 96mph on his Test debut at Lord’s

Ashes third Test: England vs. Australia 
  • When: 22-26 August  
  • Where: Headingley, Leeds  
  • Start time: 11am (daily)  
  • TV coverage: live on Sky Sports, highlights on Channel 5  
  • Radio coverage: BBC Sport  
  • Series guide
  • Australia lead the series 1-0 

England’s Ben Stokes says he is ready for a barrage of bouncers ahead of the third Test in what is turning into a gripping Ashes series.

The Durham all-rounder, whose sparkling century earned him the man-of-the-match award in last week’s drawn second Test, told Sky Sports that what happened to Steve Smith could spark a reaction by the Australians at Headingley and beyond.

Smith was felled by a bouncer from Jofra Archer and is out of the third Test with concussion. Several other Aussies were hit - although their bowlers had roughed up England in the first innings - and Stokes believed the short pitched skirmishing could become an all-out war in the coming days.

War tactic

“It has come into the game a lot more as a tactic for making batsmen feel uncomfortable and using it as a wicket-taking delivery as well,” said Stokes. 

“Whoever played the short ball better last week got through that tricky period better than the other team and if the same thing happens again this week, it’s whoever can play the short ball better will come out on top.”

Archer’s pace in his Test debut touched speeds of 96mph and allied to his aggression - he has hit 19 batsmen since making his international entrance in one-day cricket in May - he has brought a new dynamic into the Ashes. 

Though the tourists have Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins in their bowling attack, neither are as lethal as Archer.

England pace bowler Jofra Archer felled Steve Smith with a brutal bouncer at Lord's

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Freak of nature

According to the experts, Archer is a bowling freak, a man who won big in the cricket gene pool lottery. 

“He stays upright at the crease regardless of what he’s bowling - yorker, length ball, bouncer, whatever,” explained former England all-rounder Ravi Bopara on Sky’s The Debate

“Most bowlers, when they are about to deliver a bouncer, have a drop in the head as they approach the stumps but he doesn’t do that. So, as a batsman, you have no idea what to expect.”

Jon Lewis, the England Young Lions head coach, has worked with Archer at Sussex. Lewis said of his protegee: “He has the height and long arms which give him a big bowling circle, he uses his hips well and his feet are aligned. 

“Jofra lines himself up at the target well and has a lovely lag on his bowling arm.” 

This “lag” means he can use his trunk and hips to generate maximum prior to his very fast arm delivering the ball.

Scary

Archer is a reminder of the excitement of watching a genuine fast, aggressive bowler in action, but for opposition batsmen who, unlike their predecessors, have been reared on the tamer Twenty20 and ODI bowlers, he is a terrifying and very dangerous proposition.

Technically, they are ill-equipped to deal with the little red ball hurtling at their heads at nearly 100 miles an hour from 20 yards away. 

Even Jonny Bairstow, England’s wicketkeeper, says he has to be on his toes behind the stumps. 

“Technically, it was a great challenge keeping to him,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “He hits the gloves hard and the hands take a pounding. I wore two inners under my keeping gloves for the first time at Lord’s to keep for Jofra and they were needed.”

Fascinating

Stokes said it was a privilege to watch the 24-year-old Archer in action at Lord’s. 

“There was a moment where I stepped back from being involved in the game - I was stood at leg-slip for most of it - and it was just a fascinating and an amazing thing to be a part of,” said Stokes. 

“Watching a guy in his first Test match run in and bowl like he did to one of the greatest ever Test batsmen and make him look very uncomfortable, when most people have struggled to find a way to contain Steve Smith.”

The worry for England fans is that Archer, who bowled 44 overs at Lord’s, could be over-used as the hosts look to level the series. But if England use him wisely then he could be the crucial factor at Headingley. 

“This man will change the entire outlook of fast bowling in the modern era,” was how one pundit summed up Archer after Lord’s.

The pundit in question? Michael Holding, the West Indian bowler, considered by many to be the greatest paceman in the history of the sport.

Today’s back pages

Root backs Archer as England bid to level Ashes series

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