England confront Archer dilemma as West Indies eye history

By: AFP      Published: 11:56 AM, 23 Jul, 2020
England confront Archer dilemma as West Indies eye history

England must decide whether to recall Jofra Archer for the decisive third Test against the West Indies at Old Trafford on Friday after the fast bowler suffered online racist abuse. 

Archer is available after missing England's series-levelling win at the same ground following a breach of coronavirus protocols.

In a Daily Mail column published on Wednesday, the 25-year-old admitted to an error of judgement but said he had not "committed a crime".

He added some of the criticism he had faced on social media following the incident had been racist and he had reported the comments to the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board).

"I need to be 100 percent mentally right so that I can throw myself into my cricket this week," Archer wrote. "If I play and don't bowl 90 miles an hour it's going to be news."

Veteran England paceman James Anderson said skipper Joe Root and coach Chris Silverwood would have to assess with Archer whether he was "in the right place to play".

There is certainly no denying the Barbados-born Archer's talent.

In eight Tests since his debut last year he has taken 33 wickets at an average of 28.12, with his tally already including three five-wicket hauls.

But as they showed during their 113-run win in the second Test, England have plenty of pace bowling options, with Stuart Broad taking six wickets on his return to international duty.

England have been rotating their seamers throughout a series that forms part of a gruelling schedule of six Tests, including three against Pakistan, in seven weeks.

Veteran spearhead Anderson could now return on his Lancashire home ground, having been rested from the series-levelling win, as could Mark Wood.

Meanwhile left-armer Jack Leach, who will turn the ball away from the tourists' clutch of right-handed batsmen, may be recalled in place of fellow Somerset spinner Don Bess.

- 'Amazing Stokes' -

Someone unlikely to be rested, barring injury, is Ben Stokes.

The Durham star went to the top of the Test all-rounder rankings and number three in the batting charts with 176 and 78 not out, as well as taking three wickets, in the penultimate match of this series.

"To have that talent in our team and to be able to watch it first-hand is amazing," said Anderson.

West Indies, the Wisden Trophy holders, remain in the hunt for their first Test series victory in England since 1988.

"We're constantly reminding them that they've got a chance to change something that hasn't happened for 32 years," said West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick, whose side won the first Test at Southampton by four wickets.

While England have rotated their seamers, the West Indies could field the same pace quartet of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and captain Jason Holder for all three matches.

Both Gabriel and Joseph left the field with minor injuries during the second Test but Estwick said: "Shannon was ready to go into the nets today (Wednesday) to have a bowl. The rain curtailed that but I think they'll be fine. 

"I saw Kemar last night and he was looking fresh."

The West Indies also have the option of bringing in giant spinner Rahkeem Cornwall on a pitch expected to take turn.

Batting, however, remains West Indies' major problem in a series where they've yet to post an individual hundred, although several batsmen have shown their talent with attractive fifties.

"It is disappointing," said West Indies coach Phil Simmons, who could replace members of his misfiring top order with Joshua da Silva and Shayne Moseley. 

"Our batsmen need to make hundreds because our bowlers have been doing their jobs."

Strauss confident 'Red for Ruth' Test can work without spectators

Andrew Strauss believes this year's #RedForRuth initiative can succeed even though there will be no fans in the ground for the deciding Test between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford starting on Friday.

After his wife Ruth died from a rare form of lung cancer affecting non-smokers in 2018, former England captain Strauss established a charity to conduct research into this type of the disease and to assist families facing the death of a parent.

Last year, the inaugural campaign in support of the Ruth Strauss Foundation saw a capacity crowd of 28,500 turn Lord's red during an Ashes Test, with more than £550,000 ($701,000) raised by fans inside and far beyond the 'Home of Cricket'.

But Strauss accepted the coronavirus pandemic left the charity facing particular challenges.

"It goes without saying it's going to be different this year, the world is in a different place and it's obviously not going to feel quite the same as it did last year but it will hopefully be just as impactful," said Strauss.

"I personally felt last year that the combination of the Red for Ruth day and some really good, quality cricket at the same time was a really fantastic combination," added Strauss, who was assisted by sons Sam and Luca during an emotional event at Lord's. 

"Hopefully, we can do something similar this time around. I think we'll try to be as creative as we can be. 

"We're relatively limited in what we can do given everything that's going on with the bio-secure bubble."

Once again players will wear red caps, with Strauss, who will be a member of the Sky television commentary team at Old Trafford, promising to give the red suit he sported at Lord's a year ago another airing.

- 'More need than ever' -

Meanwhile donations, an online auction and merchandise profits will all help raise money.

Strauss said he understood why charities were losing out to virus-related causes amid the pandemic, but added he hoped this year's event would still help the foundation provide funds for the training of health care professionals in the skills needed to support families facing the imminent loss of a parent.

"We've had three or four events either cancelled or postponed, most of the events that you do require people to be together in a room and so that's not possible now and probably won't be for a while either," explained Strauss.

"What a lot of charities are finding is a reduction in donations and probably more need than ever for the services they offer.

"We estimate it's going to cost about £200 to put someone through the Ruth Strauss Foundation training programme so the more of those £200 we can raise, the more we can help people to give the support that other people will need."