Jofra Archer on crucial West Indies over: ‘One of those times when you just nail it’

England

Liam Livingstone’s previous over had just been dispatched for 20 runs by West Indies’ captain Rovman Powell, and though his dismissal to the final ball of the same over redressed the balance a touch, West Indies’ intentions had been made abundantly clear going into their final five overs at an ominous 137 for 2.

Enter Jofra Archer, for an over that the man himself has described as “one of those times when you just nail it” – an exquisitely targeted over of wide yorkers, outswinging at a pace that climbed steadily through the gears to a peak of 150kph/93mph.

Nicholas Pooran, fresh from a matchwinning knock of 98 from 53 balls against Afghanistan, slashed the third of those deliveries past Mark Wood at gully to become the first batter in the tournament to reach 200 runs, but that was as far as he would get. The sixth ball of the same over was dragged back half a yard, and Jos Buttler snaffled the thinnest of edges to accelerate a crucial collapse of 3 for 6 in 12 deliveries.

West Indies were unable to regain their hold on the contest despite a bright finish from Sherfane Rutherford, and even after Phil Salt and Jonny Bairstow had powered England to victory with 15 balls to spare in an unbroken stand of 97 in 44 balls, it was clear where the credit truly belonged.

“I was just glad I executed,” Archer said after the match. “It was everything that we talked about in the bowling meetings – that’s one of the times you just nail it, execution was almost perfect. If Woody had dived, he might have caught that one as well. I’m really glad that over was probably the turning point.”

Archer’s impact was heartening for England on several levels. It showed that his tactical nous has not been diminished by his long absences from international cricket, while his raw pace was further proof of the success of his recovery from those long-standing elbow and back injuries.

“You don’t really get the chance to run in and bowl fast [in T20 cricket],” he said, acknowledging that a lively St Lucia pitch had encouraged him to crank up his speed in a manner that might not have worked previously in the tournament.

“Usually everyone sits back and tries to use the pace, so I feel from the Pakistan series [onwards] I’ve been trying to mix the pace, not be too predictable. Obviously at the back end you bowl a bit more pace-on, but in the powerplay you mix it up, so you don’t get lined up.”

Archer finished with figures of 1 for 34 in four overs, but said he had taken just as much pleasure from getting stuck into every aspect of the contest, not simply his own contribution with the ball.

“Coming back into the team, you just feel you want to give back,” he said. “I didn’t think about it too badly. The first two overs, that’s when you run around trying to make something happen. Giving back to the team makes it easier for everyone else … so bat, ball, fielding, I’m just trying to help. That’s just the person I am.

“I wouldn’t say enjoy [bowling the pressure overs] but it’s my job … from the first time I debuted at Sussex, the times I bowl haven’t really changed. You just have to get on with it.”

After more than a year on the sidelines, and only a handful of England appearances since 2021, the timing of Archer’s return has been serendipitous. This latest match happened to be the first time he had faced West Indies in a T20I, but he insisted – having ‘had a little cry’ while playing in front of his friends and family in his native Barbados – there had been no mixed emotions at taking on his former countrymen.

“This is my first time playing in St Lucia, last week was my first time in Antigua,” he said. “I haven’t really played in the Caribbean apart from St Kitts, so just like the other day, I was just finding my feet and getting used to conditions.”

The significance of overcoming the hosts in front of a passionate St Lucia crowd, and ending their run of eight consecutive wins, was not lost on Archer. However, given the doom and gloom that had surrounded England’s campaign after their rain-affected group-stage campaign, he insisted the squad was not about to get carried away by their revived fortunes.

“Yeah, it’s probably going to be one of the toughest games we play in this tournament,” he said. “A great opposition in their backyard as well with the crowd … so to come out on top when, I wouldn’t say it didn’t look possible, but it was always going to be a tricky chase, so really glad we were able to chase such a high total so early in the tournament. If we do get in trouble [in future games] we know we can do it.

“Everyone loves to win and to win a close game, so confidence will be high .. but it’s only the first game, we have another four to go, so this is lovely but it’s also business as usual.

“We had a good night with bat and ball but it’s only one, the first game of the Super Eight. In the last group stage we were struggling a bit – obviously it was weather dependent. We just take every game in our stride.”

England have barely 36 hours to digest the West Indies win before their next match against South Africa – the team that delivered them a crushing 229-run defeat in Mumbai in October, arguably the nadir of their terrible 50-over World Cup defence.

Archer, however, put that on-field disappointment into context as he recalled the reasons why he didn’t have any abiding memories of the match.

“Honestly, I didn’t get to watch it as I was heading back to the UK,” he said. “I know it wasn’t a great tournament for the boys but we have put it past us. It happens and we just look forward.

“It’s the same challenge as any other team … every team has a 1-6 that is packed with batters, so it doesn’t really change. We just need to come up with a plan that works.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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