“The signals are ominous for the other teams as the tournament heads into the mid-phase. The English attack is going to come at the opposition batsmen and too with hard and raw pace and the onus is now on the batsmen to try and find their own counter to this ‘raw-pace’ strategy of the hosts”
Pace. Intimidating pace. When was the last time you heard such adjectives for an English attack? The answer will surely be in negative if we consider the English attacks of this decade. They have largely comprised of the medium pacers bowling in between the 130-140 Kmph range with occasional effort ball going past the 140 Kmph mark. But now the times have changed and the greatest vindication of such a change is the dominance of the brute pace from the two ‘seemingly’ new English bowlers going by the name of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer.
Wood made his ODI debut way back in May 2015 but had some consistency issues along with a physically draining run-up problem which could only be rectified as late as 2019 when he returned into the playing XI for the third Test against West Indies in the away series at the start of this year. His pace was up, his run-up issues sorted and for consistency – Wood is England’s second highest wicket-taker this year with 16 wickets from just 9 games (only 1 behind Woakes, though he has played 3 games less than Woakes).
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The story of the second wheel of this English pace cart is even more interesting. He is a Barbadian by origin whose talent was brought to the English county circuit by Chris Jordan – Archer’s friend and an English international. Such was the effect of Archer’s performance in the T20 circuit world over and in the English domestic circuit that England went to the lengths of altering the eligibility norms for a foreign player to represent England in the international cricketing scene. Well, those efforts seem to have paid off as Archer is the best English bowler this year if we consider the metrics of bowling average (22.75 runs per wicket) and economy rate (4.80 rpo).
Talking about pace in the context of English bowling is not and should not be considered something that is out-of-the-blue because England, in the past, has had the luxury of express pace bowlers who excelled in striking fear into the batsmen’s minds. It is the legacy of the likes of Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Bob Willis, Steve Harmison, etc. that Wood and Archer are extending. These celebrated fast bowlers have led the English bowling attack in the different historical junctures.
What is particularly intriguing about this new pace duo is their control over their skills. There were two dismissals in England’s last game against West Indies which vindicate this fact. First, it was Wood’s 148 Kmph bolt which nipped in ever so slightly to catch Shai Hope’s pads right before the stumps while the second one was a similar dismissal of Sheldon Cottrell but from the hands of Archer with the ball having some extra-legs at 152 Kmph. Despite bowling at such high speedometrics, Archer and Wood are the two most economical bowlers this year in the English setup.
Another good thing is their adaptability-on-the-go. While the West Indian bowlers failed to learn that their short-ball is going for plenty of runs, Archer’s execution was spot on in his second spell after his first spell of five overs went for 25 wicketless runs. According to Cricviz, he bowled a total of 26% good length balls in his opening spell while that percentage was just 5% in his second bid which was largely focussed on fast bouncers and full pacy Yorkers – a strategy which reaped him rich rewards as he conceded just 5 runs in his 4-over spell while picking up 3 wickets.
A stat cropped up during England’s previous game against Bangladesh that the Wood-Archer duo is the fastest bowling duet in this competition. A particular utility of such controlled pace came to the fore during the dismissal of Andre Russell. Russell played one of his trademark swats from in front of his face height delivery from Wood – a shot he had executed effortlessly time and again in the T20 circuit to collect maximums according to his will- but here was Wood’s extra-pace which didn’t allow Russell to time the ball properly and as a result, he holed out in the deep despite having all the worldly strength in his forearms.
The signals are ominous for the other teams as the tournament heads into the mid-phase. The English attack is going to come at the opposition batsmen and too with hard and raw pace and the onus is now on the batsmen to try and find their own counter to this ‘raw-pace’ strategy of the hosts. If they are unable to find any solution, more fates like those of the West Indian batsmen yesterday are bound to follow.