England v Australia – Jofra Archer happy to put friendship with Steve Smith to ultimate test

Jofra Archer is happy to call Steve Smith a pal but insists there will be “nothing friendly” on the field during England’s crucial World Cup clash against Australia.

England's Jofra Archer (left) celebrates with Joe Root after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Dhananjaya de Silva at Headingley. Picture: Tim Goode/PA
England's Jofra Archer (left) celebrates with Joe Root after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Dhananjaya de Silva at Headingley. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

Archer shared a dressing room with Smith at this year’s Indian Premier League, playing for a Rajasthan Royals side that also included Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.

The quartet joined forces throughout the T20 competition but will be on opposite sides for the remainder of the summer, starting at Lord’s tomorrow and then carrying on through the upcoming Ashes series.

Smith and team-mate David Warner have not had too many warm welcomes since arriving in England, with their recent return from year-long ball-tampering bans leading to a predictably hostile public reaction, and Archer insists any niceties from him will have to wait until after the contest.

Australia's Steve Smith. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

England’s game face will most certainly be on after their surprise defeat to Sri Lanka, their second lapse of the competition and one that means there is precious little breathing space if they lose again.

Asked if he considered Smith a friend, Archer said: “Yes, and I’d like to think he considers me the same way as well.

“He’s a really good guy. But cricket is cricket and I guess it’s time to be friends after. Until the game is over, there will be nothing friendly about it.”

Booing from the stands has certainly not derailed Smith, or Warner for that matter, with both scoring heavily so far and the former captain hitting a match-winning century in a warm-up clash against England in Southampton.

Australia coach Justin Langer. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

A blast of express pace might do the trick, though. Archer has already cranked it up to 95mph during the tournament and made a cheeky suggestion that Smith did not fancy facing him in practice during their time together.

Invited to offer some insider tips on bowling at the 30-year-old, he said: “To be honest, I didn’t bowl at him much.

“A lot of the guys probably don’t want to face me or (fellow quick) Oshane Thomas in the nets. They like the side-arm and the throw downs.

“But when you play with them you pick up on things you won’t normally notice when you’re just playing against them.

“So hopefully me and Ben can get together, I think we might bowl together at some point as well. We probably know what to do when he’s in.”

Barbados-born Archer has never tasted cricket’s oldest rivalry at close quarters, having only qualified for England in March.

He was also rested for the warm-up fixture ahead of the World Cup but realises just how much the game means – in the wider context and to his side’s semi-final hopes.

“Just from watching the Ashes and stuff I know it is pretty intense,” he said. “I’m not too sure if it will affect me coming in without having experienced it before. It could be an advantage, me not being part of what happened before.

“But it’s the World Cup, so there are no easy teams and no easy games, as we saw from our last game. The pressure has been on from the very first game.

“I think it is a chance to really see where our game is, having probably the four hardest games last. It will do us well so that if we do get through, we should be OK to pretty much win everything.”

Australia coach Justin Langer, meanewhile, claims England are still World Cup favourites, despite their defeat against Sri Lanka.

Having already been beaten early in the group stage by Pakistan, England have work to do to shore up their semi-final spot.

But Langer has no intention of arguing with their hard-won place on top of the rankings.

“They are the best team in the world. Just look at their team...nothing has changed in a week,” said Langer, who has overseen five wins from six.

“I can’t wait for Tuesday: England at Lord’s, World Cup. That is what we are thinking about.”

Langer’s charm offensive continued with a notable accolade for Jos Buttler, who Langer first came across during his stint as overseas professional at Somerset.

Few have enjoyed as glittering a career as Mahendra Singh Dhoni over recent years but Langer nominated the England vice-captain as his heir.

“Jos is an unbelievable player. I love watching him bat. He is the new Dhoni of world cricket,” said Langer. “I hope he gets a duck in this game obviously but I saw him at Somerset and he is an unbelievable athlete and an incredible finisher. They have a very strong batting unit and we will have to be right on it.”