Business as usual – England bowler Jofra Archer ready for South Africa challenge

England have the chance to put one foot in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup when they face South Africa on Friday as they seek to banish painful memories of their most recent clash with the Proteas.

The previous meeting between the sides, seven months ago in Mumbai, was arguably the nadir of England’s calamitous 50-over title defence.

After choosing to field first in stifling heat, Jos Buttler’s side conceded their biggest ever ODI total of 399 and succumbed by a groaning margin on 229 runs – the heaviest loss in their history.

And while many of the protagonists remain the same, it is not just the format that has changed. England’s thumping Super 8 win over the West Indies in St Lucia on Wednesday night, chasing 181 with eight wickets and 15 deliveries in hand, sent a message that England would not be going quietly this time.

Having banked a healthy boost to their net run-rate, comfortably outstripping South Africa’s win over the United States, victory at the same venue on Friday would all but guarantee a spot in the final four.

England look a brighter, bolder unit than the one who traipsed around India collecting six defeats from nine games, sharpened up by in-form opener Phil Salt, who blasted a brutal 87 not out against the hosts, and the seam bowling smarts of Jofra Archer.

The Bajan seamer has been worth the wait after a long injury absence, taking six wickets so far at an economy rate of 6.58 despite bowling some of the highest risk overs in every game.

He was in the air during October’s thrashing at the Wankhede Stadium and has more reason that most to focus on the positives of the here and now rather than previous mistakes.

“Honestly, I didn’t get to watch that one as I was heading back to the UK. I know it wasn’t a great tournament for the boys but we have put it past us,” said Archer.

“It happens and we just look forward. We just take every game in our stride. We’ve just won what is probably going to be one of the toughest games of the tournament… everyone loves to win so confidence will be high. So this is lovely but it’s also business as usual.

“It’s a tough group and South Africa is the same challenge as any other team, one to six is packed with batters, so it doesn’t really change. We just need to come up with another plan that works.”

Archer was instrumental in tipping the scales in England’s direction against the West Indies in the first innings, delivering a remarkable 16th over. Despite bowling to Nicholas Pooran – the top run-scorer in the competition – he did not concede a run off five of his six balls.

The last was the icing on the cake, a slower ball that foxed the Trinidadian powerhouse and dismissed him off the outside edge. When Salt thrashed Romario Shepherd for 30 in the same over of the chase, it proved a stark comparison.

“The execution was almost perfect,” Archer reflected with satisfaction.

“It was everything that we talked about in the bowling meetings, just one of the times you nail it. I’m really glad that over was probably the turning point.”

South Africa's Heinrich Klaasen stoops for a sweep shot as wicketkeeper Jos Buttler looks on.
South Africa’s Heinrich Klaasen has previous form against England (Mike Egerton/PA)

Having dealt with Pooran, Archer’s next challenge could be against Heinrich Klaasen, whose destructive century lay at the heart of South Africa’s domination of England in October.

Klaasen has noted the batter-friendly pitches in St Lucia with glee after playing on some tricky surfaces.

“We’re looking forward to finding our swings again and hopefully we can cash in against England,” he said.

“But they’re extremely dangerous side. They’ve got a lot of match-winners so we need to be aware of that and play our big moments better than what they do. Hopefully we can continue our trend of playing good cricket under pressure and it will be fantastic if we can go two out of two and close a semi-final spot for ourselves.