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England’s Archer a target for West Indies at World Cup

June 13, 2019
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England's Jofra Archer, right, celebrates with teammate Jason Roy after taking the wicket of South Africa's Aiden Markram during their Cricket World Cup match at the Oval in London, Thursday, May 30, 2019. (Nigel French/PA via AP)

SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — Big fast bowlers from Barbados will be leading rival attacks in a crucial Cricket World Cup encounter on Friday: One for the West Indies, and one for England.

West Indies coach Floyd Reifer says Barbados-born Jofra Archer “made his choice” when he moved to England.

West Indies skipper Jason Holder, when asked if his fellow Barbadian would even make the cut for his team, described Archer as “English.” And so, of course, his answer was “no.”

Short-pitch bowling has become one of the hot topics of a World Cup that was supposed to be dominated by batsmen.

The more scorching the pace, it seems, the more interest.

Archer was a late inclusion in England’s World Cup squad on residency grounds, and lit up the tournament opener with three wickets in the win over South Africa at the Oval.

Not to be outshone, a quartet of big Windies quicks bounced out Pakistan for 105 in their opening win to set a distinctly 1970s and 80s-era Caribbean tone for the tournament. Pakistan rebounded by upsetting top-ranked England. The West Indies followed up by having Australia reeling at 79-5 before letting the defending champions off the hook.

The scene has been set at Hampshire’s Rose Bowl for the pacemen, weather permitting. The West Indies took two early wickets to have South Africa in trouble at 29-2 here on Monday before their match was washed out in the eighth over. The forecast is for the rain to clear by Friday.

England captain Eoin Morgan is expecting a barrage of short-pitch bowling and some big hitting from West Indies opener Chris Gayle, just as his team faced in their most recent series in the Caribbean, which was split 2-2. England was bowled out for 113 in the fifth and final game on March 2, and West Indies raced to a seven-wicket win in 12.1 overs.

It was the only recent bilateral ODI series England wasn’t able to win.

Morgan thinks the pitch is unlikely to offer as much bounce for the Windies, and England will be better prepared for it, anyway.

“We learnt a huge amount about growing our game out in the West Indies, the fact that we are not getting carried away about some of the success we have had,” Morgan said. “I think it’s important to have days where you are beaten or can’t beat a side because you then look even more into areas of improvement, as opposed to beating sides convincingly.”

Morgan also has some lessons to pass on to Archer when the fast bowler lines up his old countrymen. Morgan, an Irishman, made his international cricket debut for Ireland in 2006 before switching to play for England in 2009 in a bid to chase his dream of playing test cricket. At that time, Ireland didn’t have test status.

Now Morgan leads England’s ODI team, and has played a role in revolutionizing the team’s approach to the 50-over format after its demoralizing group-stage exit in 2015.

“It is great that he’s in an England shirt,” Morgan said of the 24-year-old Archer. “It does feel different the first time you play against a side that either you could have potentially played for or played for. But I’m sure he will handle it like he’s handled everything else so far.

“Every challenge he’s come up against so far he’s come out the other side really well — we are not expecting anything different.”

Archer may not have support from England fast bowler Mark Wood, who is in doubt with an injured left ankle. And he’ll be facing the West Indies for the first time, a squad with paceman such as Holder, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas and Andre Russell at the forefront.

Holder is among those who know Archer and what to expect from him.

“I have seen Jofra over the years. He is obviously a Barbadian. He’s grown up in Barbados playing cricket so ... what I’m seeing of Jofra doesn’t surprise me,” Holder said. “It is just unfortunate how things went in terms of his decision-making, but he is a good talent.

“As I said before, he’s English. I’m not going to get flustered over it. Our role in this World Cup is to play against England in this game tomorrow and our role is to beat England.”

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