Ben Stokes has warned Australia that Jofra Archer is preparing to deliver another bouncer barrage in the third Ashes Test at Headingley.
Archer turned in a remarkable debut performance in a rain-affected draw at Lord’s, with a visceral display of hostile fast bowling.
The wicked 92mph delivery which smashed Steve Smith in the neck and ultimately forced him out of the match with concussion proved to be the pivotal point of the game, but it was far from an isolated incident.
Archer had earlier thumped Smith’s left forearm, a painful blow which required X-rays and ice compression, touched a peak of 96.1mph and even floored Test cricket’s first concussion replacement, Marnus Labuschagne, with another rocket.
It is not yet known if Smith will return to resume his compelling battle with the Sussex quick, but whoever takes the field in Leeds on Thursday has been told to expect another fierce working over from Archer.
“It’s part of the game and a big part of Jofra’s game, being aggressive, not letting batsmen settle,” said Stokes.
“When someone takes a nasty blow no bowler is going to say ‘I’m not going to bowl that again because I don’t want to hit them again’.
“The concern is always there when someone takes it but next ball, when you get back to the mark, it’s ‘I’m going to keep doing it’. Everything is so rhythmical with Jofra it is tough to see when that bouncer is coming. There’s no ‘tell’. He bowled a lot of them, but they don’t seem to pick it up.”
England may travel north trailing 1-0 in the series, but Stokes believes they are a different side with their new recruit in tow.
“He gives another dimension to our bowling attack. The first innings he bowled 29 overs but his last spell of eight was one of the best out and out fast bowling spells I have seen since I started playing,” he said.
“We’ve seen Mitchell Johnson do it to us, especially in 2013, but Jofra just makes it look so easy. I’d rather have him on my team than have to face him. He’s a frightening talent.
“Literally, the sky is the limit for him and he’s a great addition to our Test team.”
England named an unchanged squad on Monday morning, with Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran joining the XI that featured at Lord’s.
Record wicket-taker James Anderson is said to be “making progress” from his calf injury and will play in Lancashire’s second team game against Leicestershire in Liverpool over the next three days with a view to being available for the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
While Ed Smith’s selection panel has resisted the temptation to freshen up the batting with new faces – highly-rated openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley having both been dismissed cheaply on Sunday – switching the order remains a possibility.
In the top seven only Rory Burns is indisputably in the correct position, with debates to be had over the best use of the remaining personnel.
Stokes, for example, made a brilliant 115 not out in the second innings at Lord’s and looks ripe for a promotion.
“It just depends on what happens in the game,” Stokes said.
“I went to six because my bowling workloads have gone up in the last few years. I’m sure it will change.
“We’re a very versatile batting line-up, some days it might be Jonny Bairstow at five, some days Jos Buttler, some days me. We’re all capable, it just depends on workloads.”
Sibley and Crawley are considered the best young openers in the country and could be promoted should Jason Roy’s lean run continue, but Sibley got a duck for Warwickshire against Somerset on Sunday and Crawley was dismissed for just five.
Roy averages just nine in his first five innings as a Test opener but made 72 when batting at number three against Ireland.