There is some bad news for England even before their long and highly anticipated summer has begun in 2021. Pace ace and one of the key members of their fast bowling brigade, Jofra Archer has undergone surgery on his elbow on Friday, the 21st of May and is expected to be out of action for most of the summer making him a doubtful starter for the marquee series against India which starts in August. Although the ECB have not ruled out Archer playing some part later in the five-Test series, it is highly doubtful that he will recover and be match-fit in time for the high octane series. It is also understood England would want to preserve him for the World T20 in India in October and the Ashes which gets underway in Australia in December and not risk him by drafting him hurriedly back into the Test XI.
So what is the fuss around Archer and why is he considered an X-Factor for England?
Such was the talent and ability possessed by Archer that the ECB changed its eligibility rules to fast track his entry to play for England just before the 2019 World Cup in the country. He had returned with magnificent figures of 1-6 in 4 overs in an abandoned ODI against Pakistan at The Oval in early May just a few weeks before the start of the World Cup - this, along with his performances in first-class cricket were enough for the selectors to go all out to ensure his place in the team for the world event.
ENGLAND’S HIGHEST WICKET-TAKER AT THE WORLD CUP
While the England batsmen dominated the opposition bowling attacks grabbing all the headlines with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes amassing big runs, it was Archer who was their hero with the ball returning as the highest wicket-taker for England and the third-highest overall in the tournament with 20 wickets in 11 matches at a stunning strike rate of 30.2 and brilliant economy rate of just 4.57 - playing a pivotal role in England’s historic maiden triumph at the World Cup.
Archer’s standout qualities are his raw pace - he can consistently bowl at above 90 miles per hour - and his ability to generate extra bounce from a good length area with a high-arm action. He also bowls a mean bouncer and has hit and injured into submission some of the best batsmen in the world. For a bowler who constantly bowls at such high velocity, for him to also bowl with accuracy and discipline speaks volumes of his ability and prowess. Not only did Archer pick heaps of wickets in the World Cup but was also phenomenally restrictive.
He made his impact in the very first match against South Africa getting rid of three top-middle order batsmen which included two with the new ball while also being very difficult to get away going at just 3.85 per over. Archer bagged three wickets each in his first five matches for England in the tournament - such was his massive impact in the competition.
His ability to strike with the new ball and immediately put the opposition on the back foot make him a very dangerous proposition. This was on full display again in the semi-final against Australia when he saw the back of Aaron Finch in the second over of the innings. He later returned to dismiss Glenn Maxwell just when the destructive batsman was beginning to get into his groove.
ENGLAND’S HIGHEST IMPACT BOWLER IN THE 2019 ASHES
Although Stuart Broad picked the extra wicket, it was Archer who was England’s highest impact bowler in the 2-2 Ashes series that followed the World Cup in England. Archer returned with 22 wickets in 4 Tests at a strike rate of 42.5 and average of 20.27. Two characteristics stood out - one the quality of his wickets and the other again his ability to strike with the new ball. 15 of his 22 wickets were of the Australian top-middle order batsmen and five of them were dismissed with the new ball.
Archer returned with two brilliant match-defining performances - he bagged 6-45 in Australia’s first innings in the third Test at Leeds routing the visitors for 179 giving England the ascendancy in the match. He then produced a Player of the Match performance in the fifth and final Test at The Oval with another six-wicket haul in the first innings as England came from behind to draw level the series.
Archer has given other noteworthy performances in his Test career too. Some of these performances include a match-haul of six wickets against South Africa at Centurion albeit in a losing cause in 2019 and four wickets against Pakistan at Manchester in 2020. It was also Archer who gave England the initial breakthroughs of the Indian openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill in the series opener in Chennai striking with the new ball providing his team the early advantage in the match - the visitors had gone on to win the match.
Barely been around in the international circuit for a couple of years, Archer has already had a huge impact for England in two of the most prestigious series/tournaments for the country playing a leading role in both of them.
It is because of this fear he generates in the opposition batsmen and rattles them with his searing pace and extra bounce that makes Archer so intimidating with the ball. If he is not able to return in time for the series against India, it will indeed be a massive blow to England.