It was one of those days when cricket seems a ridiculous sort of business. The intermittent rain meant the teams managed only 19 overs in six and a half hours of on-and-off, on-and-off-again play.
Pakistan, put into to bat, made 80 for two. Even that short amount was time enough for Jofra Archer to press his case. He bowled four overs and took one wicket for six runs. His two opening overs, a maiden and a wicket-maiden, were especially good. The Pakistan openers, Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman, were barely able to lay bat on his waspish 90mph away-swingers, and when Zaman did make contact, it was only to edge a catch through to Joe Root at second slip.
Archer was not shy of using a sharp bouncer or two either. None of the batsmen felt bold enough to take him on but preferred to duck and sway out the way. It was an eye-popping spell of bowling and made an irresistible impression on the batsmen, the spectators, and, you guess, England’s selectors, too.
“Jofra’s obviously a class act, he showed that again today,” Liam Plunkett said. “He rocked up, bowled really nicely with loads of pace, smashed the right areas and picked up that wicket in the first few overs.”
Plunkett touched 90mph with one or two of his deliveries, and had Babar Azam caught behind off a cross-seam delivery that nipped away from the bat, but he sounded a little envious of how easy Archer makes it all look. “I don’t know the guy but he’s come in and performed well. He just ambles in and bowls it 93mph, he makes it look effortless.”
It is beginning to feel like the question now is not whether Archer should be in England’s World Cup squad, but who ought to be left out to make room for him. “With him in your squad you’re going to be a better team,” Plunkett said.
He is phlegmatic about it. “If it wasn’t Jofra doing it, it would be somebody else. Jake Ball or someone. There’s always going to be someone pushing for a place. To me it doesn’t matter who it is, if they come in and bowl well, they deserve to be there.”
The other fringe member of England’s squad, Joe Denly, did not get a bowl, because Eoin Morgan preferred to use Joe Root’s off-spin. He will hope for another chance in the next match in Southampton on Saturday.