England speedster Jofra Archer is going from strength to strength for Rajasthan Royals (RR) as their lynchpin and on Thursday he added another cap to his feather as he returned excellent figures of 4-0-21-2 in an Indian Premier League game against SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH).
That Archer finished on the losing side was immaterial. The 25-year-old bowler has been holding fort for RR at a time when their bowling department has not really clicked. So far, the Bridgetown-born gangling fast bowler has captured 15 wickets in 11 matches at a strike rate of 17.46.
On Thursday, Archer had the SRH batsmen dancing to his tunes in his first two overs. Consistently bowling close to 150 kmph or faster, he dismissed SRH’s powerhouse opening pair David Warner and Jonny Bairstow before they could get their sights in before being taken off in a move that, captain Steve Smith later admitted, was a mistake.
Archer sent the ball whizzing past Warner’s outside edge twice in the first over of SRH’s chase of a target of 155. He finally got the edge off the third ball as Warner’s attempted cut went just over slip. He got his man off the next ball though, banging it on length outside off stump which squared Warner up. The SRH captain edged it to Ben Stokes at second slip.
It was the second time this season that Archer had dismissed Warner and the sixth time overall in white ball cricket this year. Overall, Archer has sent 45 deliveries Warner’s way in limited overs cricket this year and conceded 32 runs while taking six wickets.
Warner cut a visibly frustrated figure afer the dismissal. “I was frustrated. In these games when you go up against world class bowlers and there is a fraction of swing or seam, you try hard to get through the first over. But with someone bowling at 150kmph and its jagging, there is not much you can do. You try to get it in the middle of the bat or you edge it and get caught at third man which happened to me,” he said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Archer almost got Manish Pandey out off the second ball of his next over but he did not need an edge or a catcher for Bairstow. Warner’s opening partner was facing his England team mate for the first time in the match after Pandey got off strike off the third ball and ended up losing his middle stump.
And then, Smith took Archer off the attack, a decision that turned out to be a turning point. “I consulted a few other boys, it was talked about [giving Archer another over up front] but opted against it and in hindsight, after what happened, probably would’ve given him one more over. It was on my mind,” he said.
By the time Archer was brought back in the 12th over, Pandey and Vijay Shankar had steadied the ship for SRH. Shankar hit three consecutive fours off Archer’s fourth over, thus all but ending any chances that RR had in the game.
Archer had started his fourth over with figures of 2/8. At the end of it, his figures read 2/21 — excellent by any standard.