Andrew MillerUK editor, ESPNcricinfoClose
- Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England’s historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate – it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
Trevor Bayliss, England’s head coach, has dropped the strongest hint yet that Jofra Archer is in line to make their World Cup squad this summer, after suggesting he could be picked for the ODI series against Pakistan in early May.
Speaking to Sky Sports at the end of a chastening day for England’s ODI team in St Lucia, Bayliss indicated that, while Archer is unlikely to feature in the provisional World Cup squad that needs to be named by April 23, there will be time to mend their final 15 before their campaign begins, against South Africa at The Oval, on May 30.
Archer, who was born in Barbados but has a British passport, recently benefited from a change to the ECB’s residency qualification period – from seven years to three – which means that he will be available for selection come the start of the English season, having spent the required 210 days on English soil in the past 12 months.
And while his experience in 50-over cricket remains limited – just 14 List A games in his career to date – his star quality on the T20 circuit makes him a hugely attractive proposition for an England set-up that has had its vulnerabilities exposed in the course of a run-laden ODI series in the Caribbean.
With his combination of genuine pace and subtle variations, allied to outstanding athleticism in the field and a hard-hitting ability with the bat that would slot seamlessly into England’s allrounder-laden lower-middle order, Archer’s stock has risen in the past few weeks, not least while Chris Gayle – with a series tally of 424 runs in 316 balls – has been climbing into the current incumbents in England’s bowling attack.
“We’ve got to have the squad in by April 23, but there’s a month after that to change it,” Bayliss said. “There’s the Pakistan series before then, so we’ll have discussions about whether he plays, because the absolute final date [for the squad] is May 22.”
While England’s defeat in the final ODI may mean they relinquish their No. 1 ranking ahead of the World Cup – depending on how India fare in their own series against Australia – there are is no expectation of wholesale change to the squad.
With the batting set in stone, the only realistic changes are in the bowling department. Mark Wood’s impressive pace and sustained fitness in the Caribbean has all but confirmed that he will make the cut.
“It’s great that he’s free of injury,” said Bayliss. “We are seeing some of the best of him and what’s he’s capable of when he’s free of injury. It’s exciting for Mark and English cricket, but we’ve got to make sure we look after him.”
That potentially leaves a choice to be made between Archer and the likes of Liam Plunkett – whose experience remains invaluable but whose fitness is an issue – and Tom Curran, whose chance to press his own case was rather undermined by the speed of England’s defeat in St Lucia.
Bayliss admitted that the Pakistan series, which comprises a one-off T20 and five ODIs between May 5 and 20, would be used as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, but that there could be some room for late decision-making.
“We’d like it to be as close as it can be [to the final 15],” he said, “but we could try someone like Jofra in those matches and make a decision one way or another.”
Reflecting on the lessons learnt in the Caribbean, Bayliss admitted that the naivety of England’s batting in St Lucia was a concern, but took comfort from the fact that there are very few wickets back home that offer the sort of steepling bounce that derailed his batsmen both here and in the Test series.
“It was a poor performance,” he said. “There were some woeful shots, and obviously after that we were never in the game.
“We still haven’t adapted,” he added. “We didn’t adapt at all. We found during the Test series that the bouncier wickets were our Achilles’ heel, we don’t often get to play on too many bouncy wickets in England, and it’s certainly not a strength of ours.
“With 200 on the board, we’ve have been right in the game. We needed a couple of guys to get their heads down, whether that meant letting balls go for 10-15 overs and building a partnership. We could have got there, but we kept on making the same mistakes.
“It’s the good and the bad. And the gulf between our good times and our bad matches was huge. But in a couple of games [in this series] we’ve come out on top and played well under pressure, so a bit more of that is what we need.”