Jofra Archer may be one of the hottest commodities in cricket after an astonishing summer but England captain Joe Root believes the paceman underrates his own talent.
Barely six months have passed since Archer made his England debut but his ability to regularly exceed 90mph and a wicked bouncer are just two of his tools that can potentially unlock any batting line-up on the flattest of pitches.
That theory may be tested when England take on New Zealand at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, which is hosting its first Test and is expected to provide a batsman-friendly surface.
Root has therefore challenged a bowler set to play in only his fifth Test and first overseas to take his focus away from the lateral movement he enjoyed in England and instead concentrate on what makes him special.
“Jofra adds something slightly different to what we had previously,” Root said.
“Out-and-out pace so that when it isn’t doing anything you feel still like you’re in the game and you can create chances, whether that’s his end or at the other off the back of it.
“Knowing Jofra, he wants to see the ball moving sideways. But one thing he underestimates is his own talent sometimes and that pace through the air can be a quite a big skill in its own.
“He doesn’t have to be seaming or swinging it round corners, we’ve already seen hostile spells of bowling. Can he tailor that to these conditions?
“To be able to bowl at that pace for a period of time is a skill in itself and I think he needs to understand that.”
Archer may be crucial on an unresponsive wicket as well as with a Kookaburra – which typically does not swing as much as its Dukes counterpart and even less when it has lost its shine.
However, there were instances over the summer where it seemed Root was depending on Archer too much – something the Yorkshireman recognises needs to change.
“One thing I have learned is that he has a huge hunger for wickets, he wants to be in the game and once you get the ball in his hand and he feels like he has something to offer, he can be very hard to get it off,” Root said of the World Cup final super-over hero.
“It’s a great trait to have and over this next period (it’s about) trying to manage that sensibly, to get the most out of him in that moment but also you want him to bowl as many spells as possible over 90mph, not one a series or once in a blue moon.”
This two-match series which starts on Thursday is not part of the World Test Championship but Root insists that does not cheapen the spectacle, saying it can be used as an opportunity to prosper in situations they may encounter in future.
He said: “Before August none of the Tests were for the championship, and they all seemed to mean something.
“One thing it is, is a chance to grow in these conditions on maybe some flatter wickets ahead of South Africa and maybe Australia down the line.”
England’s last visit to New Zealand last year saw them rolled out for a humiliating 58 before a classy century from Black Caps captain Kane Williamson ultimately helped the Kiwis to a series win.
— David Charlesworth (@charlie_4444) November 19, 2019
Williamson missed the recent Twenty20 series between the teams because of a minor hip injury while Root was one of a number of senior players rested, meaning this Test marks their first meeting since the gripping World Cup final.
Root said of his counterpart: “I’m a huge admirer. I’ve seen the way he holds himself and his team, and the way he plays the game is very admirable. He’s a fine batter as well.”
The teams enjoy a friendly rivalry but, when asked if that takes the edge off, Root responded: “No, we’re playing Test cricket.
“That in itself trumps everything else.”