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Jofra Archer takes six-for, scores century in quest for Test fitness

Seamer gets through 12 overs with the ball and then breezes to 108 off 99 balls in warm-up for potential Lord's debut

Jofra Archer celebrates a wicket, Sussex 2nd XI v Gloucestershire 2nd XI, Blackstone, August 6, 2019

Jofra Archer celebrates a wicket  •  Getty Images

Jofra Archer tuned up for a likely Test debut at Lord's next week with a six-wicket haul for Sussex's 2nd XI in his first red-ball appearance for nearly 11 months, before hitting a 99-ball 108 for good measure.
In the bucolic surrounds of Woodmancote, in rural West Sussex, Archer took two early Gloucestershire wickets with the new ball, before adding four more across two further spells in the morning session to end with 6 for 27. In all, he bowled 12.1 overs, and looked fully fit, coming in off his full run-up with good pace and hostility.
Archer came in at No. 6 with Sussex teetering at 52 for 4, but after being dropped at slip on 13, he punished George Drissell's offspin and scored freely off the seamers to reach his first hundred in a Sussex shirt.
He suffered a glancing blow from an Adrian Neill bouncer after reaching his hundred, but continued batting after a quick concussion test from Sussex's physio.
Archer missed out on the England XI for the defeat at Edgbaston, having been named in the 14-man squad despite playing through the pain of a side strain for the majority of the World Cup. With James Anderson ruled out of the second Test, he is now in line to make his debut.
Captain Joe Root said before the Edgbaston Test that Archer's omission would "give him time to get absolutely ready and fit". But Jason Gillespie, Sussex's coach - who was not present, instead preparing for the evening's Blast game against Glamorgan - said that Archer "has to play" at Lord's.
"I was surprised he didn't play the first Test, to be perfectly blunt," Gillespie told TalkSPORT radio. "It's easy to say that in hindsight, but he's 100 percent fit, ready to go.
"He had to start the first Test, but the powers that be decided he wasn't quite ready. They thought he'd not played enough red-ball cricket … but the same people were saying he hadn't played enough 50-over cricket and he's gone and been the leading [England] wicket-taker in the World Cup.
"He adds another dimension to this England bowling attack - he's got pace, bounce, movement off the seam, through the air. Four or five-day cricket is his best format, so appreciate how good he is."
England coach Trevor Bayliss had said he hoped Archer would "just get through a number of overs" in the game, and Archer bowled eight with the wind behind him in his first spell. He struck twice, first removing Tom Price, a 19-year-old opener who feathered an edge to wicketkeeper Joe Billings - no relation of Sam - before Gareth Roderick, Gloucestershire's usual Championship keeper, fished outside his off stump and fended a catch to third slip.
Archer also hit Milo Ayres, another of seven teenagers in the Gloucestershire side, on the grille with a back-of-a-length ball that rose sharply off a noticeably quick, hybrid wicket, and despite batting on Ayres was visibly shaken.
Archer's second spell, which came after an end change, lasted only two overs. His first ball was driven down the ground by Matt Brewer, the No. 8, but Archer uprooted his off stump with a perfect outswinger three balls later.
In his final spell, back at the end he had started at, he removed Nos. 9 and 10 in quick succession - caught in the slips and clean bowled - before getting rid of top-scorer Greg Willows to finish with 6 for 27 in his 12.1 overs, Gloucestershire bowled out for 79.
Chris Jordan, Archer's close friend and team-mate, arrived at the ground just in time to see him walk off for lunch, and said that he was "more than ready" to play in the second Test.
"He's been good ever since the end of the World Cup," Jordan said. "He had that week break which did him a lot of good, freed his mind, rested his body, and as you can see in the couple of T20s he's played, and the session here today, he's more than ready.
"You've seen that every time a challenge is put in front of him he seems to rise to it. He's very competitive, and he sets himself high standards more than anything and he'll be looking to live up to those: going into the second Test he'll be a big, big asset for England."
That this was Archer's first red-ball game since a Championship appearance for Sussex last September is telling for two reasons.
Firstly, it demonstrates just how hectic Archer's schedule has been. Since the end of the county season last year, he has played almost non-stop in the T10 League, Big Bash, and IPL, before going straight into the England side for the World Cup warm-up series against Pakistan. It was, perhaps, no surprise that he found himself in "pretty excruciating" pain by the end of that tournament.
Secondly, it demonstrates the extent to which England have found themselves reliant on Archer so early in his international career.
Root and Bayliss have both highlighted their desire for a "point of difference" bowler in their attack, and Archer, Olly Stone, and Sam Curran all fit into that category. But with his World Cup showing counting in his favour, it seems that he is the most likely candidate to replace Anderson at Lord's, despite his opening burst here representing his longest competitive spell in almost a year.
As if to highlight Archer's rise, he was warned off speaking to the media present, and Sussex even hired a steward to ensure he remained off-limits.
His effort with the bat, for all its flamboyance, is unlikely to count too much in his favour, given the opposition as well as the number of allrounders already in England's lower middle order. His innings combined fluency and fortune: there were elegant cover drives and lusty blows over long-on, as well as an early chance put down at slip. He reached his hundred off 84 balls to put Sussex firmly in the driving seat.
Billings, Sussex's keeper, said that he was stood "certainly a bit further back than normal" to Archer, and that this was the quickest spell he had kept to in his brief career.
"I kept to Tymal [Mills] last week up at Horsham," he said. "That was pretty similar, but I think [this] wicket had a bit of extra pace and carry in it."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98