Unless you’ve been living under Uluru, you’ll no doubt have noticed Jofra Archer’s eye-catching performances for Hobart in the Big Bash. The Sussex and Horsham all-rounder has been absolutely outstanding and emerged as one of the breakout stars of the tournament. The fans seem to love him even more than Bill Lawry loves Merv Hughes.
I love rooting for Archer because his tale is a great underdog story. He was originally spotted in the nets by England’s Chris Jordan when he was playing for Barbados five years ago. After the Windies left him out of their squad for the U19 World Cup – does anything in West Indies cricket make sense? – Jordan recommended him to Sussex.
After a stop-start beginning to his county career, in which he doubted his ability to return from a serious back injury, Archer finally broke into Sussex’s championship side in 2016. He really kicked on in 2017, when he took 61 wickets at 26 each, and scored 638 runs at an average of 46. Pretty useful stats I’m sure you’ll agree.
His story has just got better and better since. Here he was, playing for one of the smaller English counties, a team marooned in division two with their glory years apparently behind them, when Hobart Hurricanes, one of the Big Bash’s perennial underdogs, also came knocking. And yet, despite plying his trade with under-achieving teams (with a international future with England still to come!), Archer has emerged as one of the brightest talents in world cricket. He’ll deserve every penny if he secures a massive contract in next week’s IPL auction.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the impact Archer has made down under. I thought he’d do quite well – after all, even the likes of Joe Denly have found success in the Big Bash – but I wasn’t expecting him to emerge as one of the players of the tournament alongside teammate D’Arcy Short and Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan.
What’s impressed me most is the pace Archer has generated. He’s always been a bit slippery – he operated around 85mph when I saw him last summer – but he’s frequently registered over 90mph in this year’s Big Bash. One bouncer to Australia’s new ODI keeper Alex Carey hit 148kph. That’s Mitchell Johnson in the 2013 Ashes fast!
What amazes me is the simplicity of Archer’s action. He glides to the crease, and seems to generate most of his pace from a quick arm rather than brute force. He also has an uncanny knack of bowling unplayable yorkers that swing in late. That’s a very handy skill to possess. Oh, and did I mention that he’s an incredible natural athlete? If he’s not taking wickets, he’s creating spectacular run outs and catches. His efforts against Perth last week were simply incredible.
Obviously comparisons have been made to Chris Jordan, the man who ‘discovered’ him, and Chris Lewis. Both these superb athletes were born in the West Indies but ultimately played for England. However, unlike Jordan and Lewis, who generally under-achieved in international cricket despite their all-round talents, Archer seems to have far greater star potential. It’s very frustrating that he wants to play for England but won’t qualify for another four years – despite having a British father and a mother with UK citizenship. Someone more qualified than me might have to explain that one!
It will be fascinating to see how the next few weeks unfold for Archer. Hobart have a great chance of making the Big Bash semi-finals for the first time since 2013/14 – although their recent defeat to the red hot Scorchers hasn’t helped – and then there’s that looming IPL auction on the horizon too. Maybe Archer will fetch a higher price than Ben Stokes? At least (injuries permitting) he’ll definitely be available.
While Stokes’s cricket has gone somewhat under the radar in recent months, with just a few low-key games for Canterbury, Archer’s Big Bash exploits have rapidly turned him into the most marketable rising star in English cricket – even if he isn’t quite ‘English’ yet.
Written in collaboration with Oddschecker – the place for all the latest Big Bash betting