By Alex Miller
If the winds of change aren’t exactly blowing a gale through the England bowling attack, it’s fair to say there is a slight breeze flickering at the top of its mark.
The country’s two highest-ever Test wicket-takers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, had their last rites read out by some of the country’s more radical cricket fans during the opening throes of this Ashes series and, whilst neither has sliced through the Australian attack in the same style as in home series, they’ve roared back with some class.
That said, Anderson did some slicing in Adelaide, returning 5-43 and inspiring a collapse of 6-67 in the latter half of Australia’s under-par 138. The duo is far from the Dad’s Army double act many had prematurely written them off as but, for a fleeting second or two, attention had turned to the next generation of English bowling.
In first-class terms, that next generation isn’t as obvious as many would like. Craig Overton seems to have made a positive impression among the England camp during his maiden tour and did the business on the field too, claiming four wickets and top-scoring in their first innings with 41 not out. The Somerset man looks well set to lead the attack in years to come.
But who will join him? Overton’s lack of pace has been a talking point, with many questioning the make-up of a county set-up that fails to produce speedsters.
One starlet bucking that trend is Sussex’s Jofra Archer. At just 22, the former West Indies under-19 bowls in the region of 85mph, with the potential to go faster. You can’t help but feel that England would be a lot shorter than their current 9-1 price in the Ashes betting online with a bowler capable of such consistent pace, something Archer works hard on, along with his batting, which many believe is good enough for him to be developed into a genuine all-rounder.
Indeed, the Barbados-born youngster is a prime example of the three-dimensional cricketer Bayliss’ England love to love and he’s right on course to feature next time out. He boasts an impressive batting average of 37.86 in first-class cricket and has taken 89 wickets at an average of 26, making The Cricket Paper’s Division Two team of the year in the process. There is little wonder the seven-year residential qualification period usually suffered by foreign sportsmen wanting to represent England is rumoured to have been, in Archer’s case, reduced to four.
His likely ascension to England stardom re-raises a question around ‘project players’ that has been around for as long as anyone would care to remember. Archer was brought to Sussex on the recommendation of his soon-to-be teammate Chris Jordan, another West Indies convert, who had faced him in the nets back home.
Together with the multi-talented Curran brothers, who were plucked from the South African system that seems to be as good a source of talent than any county conveyor belt, it is possible that the majority of England’s bowling attack may soon be made up of talent poached from around the world.
Whichever side of the argument you sit on when it comes to that particularly thorny issue, it’s hard not to see a bright future for English seam bowling. Between Archer, the Currans, George Garton, Matt Fisher and Saqib Mahmood, the Anderson and Broad legacy is in safe and talented hands.