Before this game, Jofra Archer complained that he would probably make headlines if he put on his left sock first. On Saturday, amid an apparent lack of interest in how he dressed, he looked in a happier place, writhing with poison as he tried to relegate to the footnotes for a difficult week.
The fact that he was on the field at all was a victory, both for the management of England in the aftermath of his infamous detour to Hove, and for his own attitude, which is paper-thin than some think.
Basically, it looked like he wouldn’t play at all in a match England has to win to regain the Wisden Trophy before being replaced by silverware honoring Viv Richards and Ian Botham.
Jofra Archer was again a much happier place on the field after a difficult week for him
His Daily Mail column was full of dissatisfaction with what he considered the overreaction to his violation of the coronavirus protocol and his aversion to the racist abuse he suffered on social media. From the outside it looked like now was the time for England to cash in on their promising strength in seam cone depth, take Archer out of battle and save him for the series against Pakistan.
But the column turned out to be an exercise in catharsis. Not long after it was brought to the attention of the ECB on Monday evening, Archer told management that he was ready to play. When, according to Joe Root, he bowed into the nets like ‘lightning’, he and coach Chris Silverwood had their answer.
Archer’s first act in his comeback test was to shield Kemar Roach for the second time when England collapsed on the second morning – a condition remedied by a raw half-century of Stuart Broad.
Stuart Broad was in good shape after a rough half a century to remedy England’s early struggles
After Broad Kraigg removed Brathwaite in second place from the West Indies’ answer to English 369, Archer replaced James Anderson and was quick in his stride.
He quickly found the edge of Shai Hope’s bat, only for the ball to die on his way to Ben Stokes on the second slip after catching Hope’s thigh. Then, with the last ball of his fourth over, Archer bounced John Campbell after implementing the kind of plan that could make him another force in Australia in 18 months.
The first five deliveries from the over were all of good length, with the fifth – timed at 90 mph – causing a defensive dropout from Campbell that somehow ended with the ball hitting the center of the bat.
In the comment box, Andrew Strauss showed why he led England in 50 tests: the next delivery, he warned, would be short. And so it was. But it came with an sting. Even in slow motion, Archer gives no indication that the bouncer is on the way. At 89 mph, it’s even less readable. Campbell had no control over a ball reaching his ribs, and the ledge ran into the trench to Rory Burns.
Archer showed no signs of the bouncer coming and took John Campbell’s wicket
ARCHER CATCHES CAMPBELL
John Campbell was really set up yesterday by Jofra Archer in Old Trafford.
The Windies opener was carefree during the English sailor’s fourth, swinging on his front foot to fend off the first five balls of good length.
Instinctively pulled back on the front foot for the sixth time, this time Archer went short and Campbell was left completely confused as he stretched out to the channel at Rory Burns.
If the delivery was missing the threat from the firecracker that nearly decapitated Roston Chase in the first test in the Ageas Bowl, it sent a message: As promised, Archer was indeed in the right frame of mind.
Mind you, until he started his spell, he might have wondered if he had insulted Manchester in a past life. After all, it was here a year ago on the opening morning of the fourth Ashes Test that the whisper of discontent first circulated after he failed to reproduce the searing pace Steve Smith had struck at Lord’s.
In the era of Black Lives Matter, it seems even more apparent now that the language used at the time to explain its struggles on a windy day was fraught with what could be politely called ‘unconscious bias.’ Archer, they said, didn’t like the cold; he was unpredictable; he was an athlete, so why not come at 95 mph with a click of the fingers?
His next test in Manchester was then spent in self-isolation in his hotel room as his teammates squared off the series without him. When he ventured to the nets with gloves and a mask, he did so out of curiosity and not like a fast bowler hoping to get his place back.
The fast bowler was curious when he appeared in nets with gloves and a mask
In this game, however, he was chosen as a member of what Silverwood said would be England’s best attack, and was allowed to get into the action as the first change behind old firm Anderson and Broad.
His stump figures yesterday – one for 55 out of 13.1 overs – did not reflect the problems he was facing, and he could have easily removed West Indian wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich, who got into a hopeless mess with a ball that was less than he expected and just fell over Burns’ kicking back.
Best of all, after Jason Holder took three quarters in a row from his bowling, two over edges to the third man, Archer could laugh at the injustice. For both him and his teammates, absence might have made the heart a little bit bigger.