Jofra Archer picked up the vibe after hearing his name announced on his Cricket World Cup debut at the Oval.
It was all the motivation he needed to rattle South Africa’s top order with his intimidatory pace and bounce, picking up three wickets to set England on course for a 104-run win in the opening match of the tournament on Thursday.
To think, there’d been some critics of the Barbados-born fast bowler’s rushed and relatively late inclusion in an England squad that spent four years preparing for a World Cup on home soil. Any doubters were well and truly drowned out by a vociferous crowd that got right behind Archer at one of cricket’s oldest international arenas.
“Everyone exploded when my name was announced and it’s a great feeling,” Archer said in a post-match TV interview. “It gave me that little bit extra. My bouncer is a wicket-taking ball and a dot ball so I’d be stupid not to use it.”
And use it he did.
Archer forced Hashim Amla to retire hurt in the fourth over after a short ball reared up and hit the veteran opener on the helmet.
He then disposed of Amla’s replacement — dismissing Aiden Markram to grab England’s first wicket of the tournament — before having South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis caught for 5 from a poorly timed pull shot. South Africa suddenly was reeling at 44-2 in the 10th over, without its two most experienced batsmen either out or temporarily out of commission.
The South Africans still had a slight chance with Rassie van der Dussen resisting for 50, until Archer returned to remove him and make the score 167-6.
That wicket brought Amla back to the crease after being cleared of concussion, and guess who was there to greet him?
Archer fired in another short delivery that Amla let slide by chest-high to the wicketkeeper, but it wasn’t long before he was out, too. South Africa, chasing England’s 311-8, was all out for 207 with 10 overs remaining.
First points to top-ranked and title-favorite England, with the bowlers outshining the batters.
Some of the best batsmen in cricket — India captain Virat Kohli among them — talked about the X factor that the 24-year-old Archer would lend to the England attack. He delivered it over and over again as he regularly bowled at speeds above 145 kph (90 mph) and gave the bowlers first bragging rights in a World Cup expected to be dominated by the bat.
England captain Eoin Morgan commended his bowlers for the way they went about defending a lower total than most anticipated, lavishing praise on the newest member of the team.
“Jofra Archer bowled fast and accurate on a slow pitch, it was outstanding from a young guy,” Morgan said. “He’s taking everything in his stride, it’s very exciting.”
Archer had played only three one-day internationals for England leading into the World Cup. Barring injury and upsets, he’s destined to play plenty more.