If Sibley’s Slow, Then Archer’s Even Slower

Right then. Let’s get the Jofra thing out of the way first otherwise it’s going to reside in the corner like a huge elephantine distraction. What on earth was he thinking? I imagine the players were given strict instructions but he either didn’t understand or wilfully ignored them. It’s not good enough really.

However, we all make mistakes. Many of us make big mistakes. But we inevitably get a second chance. What’s more, going home for an hour isn’t the greatest sin in the world if he stayed away from other people. The bio bubble was clearly stretched but I doubt Jofra burst it at any point.

The problem, really, is that it’s difficult for the doctors and scientists involved to know for sure. They have to err on the side of caution every time. They can’t just take a player’s word for it.

And that’s the bit I imagine that Archer didn’t quite understand. The rules are there for a reason to remove (or completely minimise) the chance of infection insidiously creeping into the camp. But having said that, I don’t understand why the players can’t all travel on one coach together? Surely this would lower the risk even further.

Basically, this is just one big cock up all round. I hope that Jofra got a roasting. But equally I hope he’ll be forgiven and we can all move on. In fact, arguably the most annoying thing about all this is that Archer has given his critics more ammunition. He’s made it easier for people to argue that he’s not committed enough. Sigh.

I just have one question though. What on earth did he go home for? Was it to feed the cat? Have a dump? FaceTime his mum? Slip in a bit of nookie? Or perhaps pick up his favourite tome by Noam Chomsky or Rush Limbaugh? I really have no idea. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Now let’s discuss the actual cricket. What a fantastic day for England! 207-3 is an excellent result after being inserted on a pitch expected to assist the bowlers. Joe Root and his merry men should feel rather chuffed.

The hero, of course, was Dom Sibley – otherwise known as the corpse with pads on. But who cares if his strike rate was just 34? He’s done a fantastic job for his team. England have been missing gumption like this for years.

I just don’t understand the criticism Sibley’s received from certain quarters. Yes, of course we’d all like him to develop his game and play a few more shots – albeit only when circumstances require it (which they didn’t yesterday). However, can’t we just celebrate the fact that we’ve finally unearthed an opener who occupies the crease and doesn’t expose the middle order to the new ball?

Sometimes I think people crave ‘the perfect cricketer’ so much that they can’t see the woods for the trees. Yes of course Sibley will try to develop as a batsman (he’ll certainly need to play spin better) and he may or may not be capable of doing this. However, even if he can’t, and the Sibley we saw on day one is as good as it gets, then he’ll still be a very valuable cricketer for England. Basically Sibley can be the glue that can keep the foundations of our innings together. And that’s something to celebrate. It’s certainly better than having Jason Roy back!

I personally thought Sibley played a masterclass yesterday. With the West Indies a bowler down, his approach was exactly the right one – wear the opposition down to make life easier for the middle-order. Indeed, if Jos Buttler finally pulls his finger out in the second innings he’ll owe Sibley an enormous dept of gratitude. After all, it would’ve been Sibley that blunted the attack and made Roach, Joseph, and Holder bowl far too many overs.

The other batsman we should thank is Ben Stokes, who once again knuckled down beautifully. The fact his 59* has taken 159 balls, and his strike rate isn’t much higher than Sibley’s, just shows that scoring hasn’t been easy on this sluggish pitch thus far.

Talking of the pitch, what on earth happened? Manchester is supposed to be one of (if not the) quickest surface in the country. That’s why losing Archer for this game was such a blow. I didn’t exactly expect Perth but I thought there’d be more pace than we saw. Perhaps it will speed up a bit on days two and three?

Before I sign off I should also discuss the Windies. It was a disappointing day for them. I thought their tails might be up after their heroics in Southampton. However, it looks like they’re still struggling for consistency too.

The tone was set by Shannon Gabriel, whose opening spell was so wayward that it looked like he was ‘targeting’ the corridor of uncertainty outside Sibley’s leg-stump. I’m not sure what was up with Gabriel but he appeared to be carrying some kind of injury. He certainly wasn’t moving particularly well in the field.

England will be relieved that the Windies’ spearhead has been blunted. If we can scrape our way up to 400+ (and who cares if we scrape our way there or blast our way there?) then we’ll be in a fantastic position.

Then we’ll see if a fired up Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran, who also have something to prove, can get more out of this sluggish pitch.

James Morgan


  • I think it’s widely accepted he went home to practise his slower ball bouncer with his girlfriend.

  • 1. Archer has been a fool, a fact that he himself has acknowledged (which counts for a good deal in my book), but yes he deserves another chance.
    2. Yesterday’s batting was exactly what the circumstances demanded. For maybe 45 minutes of today similarly slow going can be expected at both ends, but if England negotiate that period without over much damage being incurred then I would expect some more aggressive cricket from one end, whether Stokes, Pope or Buttler is the one to produce it – by then England will have tired bowlers and an old ball to cash in on, a combination that has not been a feature of very many England first innings in the last few years.

  • Those corn rows are a work of spectacular and intricate tonsorial art. No way can he maintain that himself.

  • “I don’t understand why the players can’t all travel on one coach together?” Exactly what Mrs B said so it must be right.

    I’ve been trying to find the explanation for Archer. Foolishness doesn’t do it for me. Need more. Arrogance ? Ignorance? Dimwittedness? Thought he could get away with it? Dumb or trying to be too clever by half. Or really didn’t understand the rules ?

  • “The corpse with pads on”. I like it. He played an old fashioned (these days) Boycotish innings which does the business, albeit it might take to Sunday to get to 400+ if he stays in. From a “spectators” point of view, for me anyway, the definition of boredom would be watching DS batting all day in an empty Old Trafford with Manchester leaden skies. Let’s hope the rest of them can capitalize on it though.
    As for Archer, agree with what has been said, but maybe he thinks he’s so good he can get away with it. You can argue the toss about “bio secure bubbles” ( really no such thing) but at the end of the day he broke the rules. Yes alright, I’m not an Archer fan!

  • Archer should have said he was attending a BLM protest, these new health rules don’t apply to them for some reason. “Doctors” and “scientists” can be found who say so therefore it must be true.

    I’d be very interested to know how Archer’s action was discovered.

    On the cricket it’s disappointing to hear of what seems like another sluggish pitch. It can’t be tired and the summer as a whole has been very dry – so what excuse can there be?

  • Well said about the coach James. As they’re all quarantined together during a match why let them drive independently between fixtures it makes no sense.
    I would drop Archer from the entire series. He should be made an example of for this kind of inconsiderate judgement. However sorry he is afterwards is no excuse. Vaughans assertion that he’s only a young cricketer and needs our support is bollocks. He’s not a child or a victim he’s an adult!

    As to Sibley, I’m sure Andy B will agree, the way Warwicks have messsed with an originally pretty orthodox technique, so he can adapt better to white ball short of a length bowling, has reduced his scoring options on the offside to square of the wicket. He was dropped off a sitter as he attempted an off drive because he didn’t get his foot across, he just plants it on the line of off stump as he can’t rotate his body round far enough to play the shot properly. Not rocket science, just a sign of the times.

    • We have so much choice of seamers available this summer, let’s just drop Archer. Too many people are calling this a misjudgement rather than a lack of integrity.

    • I don’t agree with the ‘drop Archer for the series’ argument. He has been punished, and (if fit) be considered for selection for the next Test, and given that he was the best England bowler at Southampton, I’d expect him to play.

      I would, however, make it clear to the rest of the squad that they will be moved around the country in a coach (as I read the West Indies were) and not ‘trusted’ to travel on their own as I heard discussed on TMS yesterday.

      • Actually he hasn’t been punished–yet. He was left out as per the biosecurity protocols because he left the bubble, which meant that he had to self-isolate for five days–thereby making himself unavailable.

      • Form or ability should have nothing to do with it. The greater his punishment the less likely he is to do similar again. Potentially he could have put the whole side at risk. It’s not acceptable.
        His ‘punishment’, as has been said, is not real as he’s merely got to self isolate, like millions of us have had to do at some point over the last few months, it’s just a standard precaution.
        As I said he’s not a child or a victim, he’s a consenting adult and should be judged as such.

  • The players don’t travel in the same coach because the risk of transmission when they are all packed into the same coach is higher than if they were travelling independantly. Of course, this requres a degree of trust, and Archer meeting up with a friend was boneheaded.

    Sibley’s innings was prefectly fine, it was the kind of stuff that England have been missing for far too long. Sure, Sibley needs to improve his S/R and play spin better, but he’s still young, people criticising his innings are alsousually the same ones who complain when England were 30/3.

    • In that case why are the Windies having a coach. You can at least keep track of everyone’s movements if they’re all together. That’s all out of the window when you let them go their own way. They’ve all been practicing together as well as sharing the same dressing room, in addition to hugging each other on the field. You can’t self distance as a unit playing cricket, that’s why they get tested every day.

  • Archer has clearly been idiotic and guilty of selfish / inconsiderate thinking as most reasonable people have acknowledged, but it’s extremely disturbing to see posters on here referencing the colour of his skin… “BLM protest” “if he was white” etc. What has that got to do with it, why would that even enter your thinking? Very sad to see such ignorant comments on a fine broad church blog like this, just shows we still have a long way to go, in both cricket and society.

    • Was it a reference about Archer’s race or a reference to the fact that this series is closely associated with BLM? The players are wearing BLM matter badges. The BLM protests were also very multiracial (not just black people), which is a sign of great progress – a point made by Michael Holding. I’m not sure Simon meant anything racist. He’s a regular poster on here and there’s never been a hint of anything racist before. Rest assured I’ll moderate anything I consider racist. I won’t tolerate that kind of thing on here.

      • I didn’t think Simon H was a racist but I did wonder if he was Australian given how close he got to the line (and I say that as some-one who has enjoyed his comments in the past).

        I give you credit for taking down the other comment so fast.

        • The ‘report comment’ feature worked well in this instance. Someone else flagged the comment so it was taken down straight away. I then read the comment (it goes to ‘pending’) edited it, and reposted it.

          • Hi James, thank you for the quickness and thoughtfulness of your response. I didn’t mean to suggest that anyone was being flagrantly racist, but felt uncomfortable with what I personally thought were inappropriate references to Archer’s race. Not quite sure I agree with your charitable assessment of the BLM comment but happy to give the benefit of the doubt. You are of course much more familiar with the posters and do a great job of moderating the site. Keep up the good work!

            • Thanks leg slip. I appreciate that. I like to think we’re a decent lot on here so I’m happy to give people the benefit of the doubt. But obviously it’s something that needs to be monitored very carefully. It’s disappointing that cricket in the UK isn’t as diverse as it could be.

  • Did all the players who drove from Southampton to Manchester do it without stopping for petrol, loo-break or food?

    On paper, this must be the strongest batting tail we have ever put out – no.11 with best Test score of 169. Pity we don’t play on paper….

    Interesting field that Chase was bowling to for the right-handers. I’ve always been puzzled by the “don’t play against the spin” injunction. Surely if you are playing the ball back where it’s spinning from, you are presenting more of the face of the bat to it?

    • Muffin
      The ECB had made special arrangements with certain service stations en route from Southampton and Old Trafford. Everything had been well thought out, well organised and explained in detail to the players that there really is no excuse for Archer’s selfish stupidity.

  • Old Trafford pitches have been on too many occasions in the Championship so lacking in life that no chance of a result. Fear the same here. Will know more after both teams batted once. Odds of a draw now around 2/1 compared to 8/1 at start of game.

  • The reason Archer went back to Brighton was that he had booked a haircut months ago and he wasn’t going to miss the haircut for anything.

    I reserve judgement on Dom Sibley until he meets the Aussie quicks who will surely bowl outside the off stump rendering Sibley stroke less.

    I think the reason why they don’t take a coach to Manchester is that they already have too many coaches. I’ll get my coat.

  • @englandcricket: “If any of these players leaves the biosecure environment then it could be catastrophic”.
    @englandcricket “Oh right. Well there is nothing we can do about that.”
    Stares blankly at team bus. All support staff. Bank account.
    @englandcricket “Nothing.”

  • However, can’t we just celebrate the fact that we’ve finally unearthed an opener who occupies the crease and doesn’t expose the middle order to the new ball?

    Quite right. That’s what I’ve been doing! Of course he’s not the finished article but he’s shown that he’s prepared to work hard at adapting his game and I’m sure he’ll continue to do that in the way that the likes of Amiss and Gooch did in the past to cope with the demands of Test batting. Boycott is right. Let him evolve and adapt – don’t try and change him. OK there are certain parts of the ground where he doesn’t get runs, but without using them much he still got more than 100 of them!

  • If they are all being tested daily a coach is perfectly safe and would have negated any “wandering” off. Ok he’s just been reprimanded and that should be the end of it. No reason why he can’t be considered for the next Test then.
    After a rain off today England have to get them out quickly and enforce the follow on. A draw is no good as the Windies will retain the Trophy.


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