England vs Australia, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Jofra Archer’s fire meets Chris Woakes’ ice as hosts’ ‘other opening combo’ takes centrestage

  • Jigar Mehta
  • July 12th, 2019
  • 11:53:19 IST

The bumpy ride has turned smoother. England are in the final of the World Cup for the first time since 1992. It took them 9,969 days to get there. At one stage, they were on tenterhooks and possibly the brink of embarrassment.

But as always, like a typical Bollywood movie, there had to be a twist in the tale. England bounced back in style, with thumping wins over India and New Zealand. The reunion of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow made all the headlines. The opening combo had breathed life into the English campaign. However, there was more to the story.

File picture of Jofra Archer (L) and Chris Woakes. AFP

File picture of Jofra Archer (L) and Chris Woakes. AFP

Quietly in the background, the Chris Woakes-Jofra Archer combo was making crucial contributions to lay the platform while defending totals, which flew under the radar.

At Edgbaston, in a big match against the old enemy, the Woakes-Archer combo took the centre stage. Woakes' discipline combined with Archer's skill and aggression destroyed Australia's top order to set the tone.

There was just a hint of movement in the air so the two pacers produced seam moment that rattled the Aussies.

The Woakes-Archer combo is a nice mix of fire and ice. Woakes is calm, composed and indefatigable, someone who goes about his business quietly with a no-nonsense approach. Someone who bowls those 'in the corridor' McGrath-style lines, hitting hard lengths and finds movement both ways to keep the batsmen guessing.

Archer, on the other hand, has that aggression and extra pace that hurries the batsman and the skill to keep them the toes and surprise every now and then.

The artistry of the two pacers was on display at Edgbaston. Archer provided the perfect start sending Aaron Finch back for a golden duck. Over the years, Finch has had problems with his front foot and LBW with the incoming delivery. He's worked on it and rectified the issue to an extent but is still susceptible. The plan is as simple as one of Archer’s now famous tweets: Bowl it full and get it to jag back in.

Archer executes it to perfection off the first ball of his spell. Finch is caught in front as it swung and seamed back in at 85 mph.

Woakes had started the first over of the innings with a full delivery to David Warner, which was caressed for four through extra cover, but he read the pitch and pulled the length back.

He again tries to experiment with the full delivery in his next over, but Warner smashes it over his head for another four. Woakes immediately corrects it again, drags his length back, just short of good length. The ball takes off from the surface, Warner is surprised and has very little time to react, the ball seams away, he pokes and gets an outside edge, Bairstow pouches it at first slip and they set off in wild celebrations.

Those celebrations give a glimpse of how important that wicket is.

Just like the Roy-Bairstow stand, the Warner-Finch stand has been the backbone of Australia's batting line-up. The duo had amassed the most number of runs for any wicket and had the third-best average and most number of 50-plus stands — 6 (3 100 plus and 3 fifty plus) — for pairs who had added more than 400 runs. Together, they had scored 42 percent of the team's runs (1145/2678).

Woakes and Archer had broken that backbone inside three overs.

For the next few deliveries, Archer and Woakes fiddle with Handscomb's mind. Archer troubles him with outswingers, beating the outside edge and Woakes brings the ball back in to beat his inside edge. In between, Archer also keeps inducing edges off a scratchy Smith.

Handscomb is tentative. He is susceptible to the inswinger. He's looked out of sorts. It's only a matter of time with the ball doing a bit. Off the first ball of the seventh over, Woakes delivers the coup de grace. That in-dipper crashes through Handscomb's bat and pad and onto the stumps.

Alex Carey is promoted. Woakes nearly sends him back, but the outside edge falls short of the second slip. Archer, out of nowhere, pings Carey on the chin with a lifter. The helmet is dislodged. Jaw hammered. Blood dripping out. Lethal. Wake-up call.

"All batsmen buy 2 helmets cause when we meet they will be in use..."

Jofra Archer's tweet from 2013 start appearing on the timeline as retweets go rampant.

In the Twitter universe, Archer knows everything.

Outswingers, inswingers, bouncers. Australia are rattled. They have their lowest Powerplay total of the tournament. 27/3. 45 off the 60 balls delivered by Woakes and Archer are dots.

Woakes and Archer haven't just asphyxiated Australia, they had provided the hammer blow as well with three wickets. In a game where toss was touted to be crucial, Morgan had lost one. But the 'other opening combo' had put them in the ascendency. The platform was set and early momentum achieved.

The mind went back to the first 45 minutes of the Indian innings that changed the course of the first semi-final at Old Trafford as the New Zealand pacers sent the top order packing inside first four overs, a phase which proved to be decisive.

This Powerplay performance from England pacers in a big game had a similar impact.

"We were just totally outplayed today," Finch said. "The way they set the tone with the ball in the first 10 overs and getting to 27/3 after ten overs played a huge part of the game. You do expect the new ball to seam first up, but they bowled great lengths, hitting the stumps a lot."

The duo would come back to inflict more damage.

Archer sucks Glenn Maxwell in with a knuckle ball while Woakes sends back the threatening Mitchell Starc (29 off 36).

Archer finishes with 10-0-32-2. Woakes ends up with 8-0-20-3. Australia are bowled out for an under-par 223.

The Bairstow-Roy combo then do the Bairstow-Roy things to completely demolish Australia.

Woakes is named the Man of the Match. There wasn't any doubt.

Over the years, Woakes has become one of the best new-ball bowlers for England and his experience proved crucial in the big match. In the last four years (since April 2015), Woakes has scalped the second-most number of wickets in Powerplay, 46, behind Boult (50). He is good at the death too.

Not just with his bowling, Woakes was creating an impact with diving saves too. He had earlier pulled off a brilliant catch of Rishabh Pant at deep mid-wicket at the same venue. He's so far saved 20 runs on the field. And is a decent bat as well. A valuable player and a complete package.

"He's a cool customer, goes about his business day in day out exceptionally," Morgan waxed lyrical on Woakes. "He's one of the best in the first ten overs over the last couple of years. Today was his day. He and Jofra up front were outstanding and it was probably one of the standout performances in the first 10 overs in the last four years for us and the other guys backed that up, which allowed us to stay on top," Morgan added.

Archer has brought a breath of fresh air to this side and it's not a surprise that there was so much buzz and desperation around his selection.

Archer and Woakes had learned from their mistakes at Lord’s earlier against Australia where they didn't hit the fuller lengths in lively conditions and barely hit the stumps in the Powerplay. It hurt them. The opening pair went on the add 123. At Edgbaston, they corrected it and hit the right lengths. They consistently hit the good length areas in first 10 overs and didn't give Australia an inch.

"I don't think it was a bad wicket by any means, we just found the right lengths and when you pick wickets at the top, they obviously have to rebuild, and build a new partnership and we just kept the pressure on," Woakes explained.

Against India, the duo gave away just 28 runs and picked up the wicket of KL Rahul in the Powerplay, defending 337.

At Chester-le-Street, they reduced New Zealand to 37/2 in first 10 overs, defending 305.

There were vital contributions in two crunch matches. Overall, Archer has taken joint-most wickets in Powerplay this WC - 7, while Woakes has six, joint-second most.

England's biggest strength was their batting but that alone wasn't going to win them matches. They needed to have a balance and that has been provided by Woakes and Archer.

Woakes was three years old when England last made it to the final of a World Cup. Archer wasn't even born. 27 years later the two have played a crucial role in making it happen again.

One final push and it will be home for the first time ever.

For all the latest news, opinions and analysis from ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, click here

Updated Date: July 12, 2019 11:53:19 IST

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