'The sky is the limit' for Jofra Archer - Ben Stokes

Vice-captain says Archer's fifth spell in the first innings was "one of the best" spells of fast bowling he has seen as a player

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Ben Stokes chats to Jofra Archer during England's nets session, Edgbaston, July 30, 2019

Ben Stokes chats to Jofra Archer during England's nets session  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes believes that "the sky is the limit" for Jofra Archer after his remarkable display on Test debut at Lord's, but admitted that the aftermath of his thunderous bouncer to Steven Smith caused "a pretty scary few minutes" as the medical teams assessed Smith for concussion following a direct hit to the side of the neck during his innings of 92.
Stokes, whose reduced workload with the ball played a part in his promotion to No. 5 in England's second innings - from where he scored a hard-earned seventh Test century - also confirmed that Smith had been in good spirits since the incident, with the pair and Archer all knowing each other well from their time together at Rajasthan Royals.
"I messaged him last night [Saturday] to see how everything was," Stokes said. "We've got a good relationship from playing together at Rajasthan and so does Jofra. I had a little giggle with him, which was good, saying Jofra's a good shot to hit that pea-head!
"I think he was as in good a fettle as he could have been but yeah it was good to see him get back up and walk of the pitch."
The incident occurred during a remarkable eight-over spell from Archer in which he exceeded 90mph with 16 consecutive deliveries, and also struck Smith a painful blow on the left forearm which later required a scan to rule out a fracture. With England on the attack, Stokes had been posted at leg gully so was at close quarters to witness and hear the impact.
"It just hit flesh," he said. "[It was] not one of the nicest things to see on a cricket field, seeing someone go straight down like that was a pretty scary couple of minutes for everyone out there, but it was great seeing him get back up.
"Marnus [Labuschagne] took a heavy blow [in the second innings] but the difference was he got straight back up and was ready for the next ball. In that moment it's never nice but you look for the reaction - Steve stayed down so that was the scary thing, he laid flat and we weren't quite sure where everything was out there."
Despite the unease in the moment, Stokes has no doubt that Archer's use of the short ball had not crossed any line, and that England wouldn't hesitate to unleash him again at Headingley next week, where Australia could be without Smith once again as he recovers from delayed concussion.
"It's part of the game and a big part of Jofra's game, being aggressive, not letting batsmen settle," said Stokes. "That bouncer of his is a huge asset and he's going to keep on doing it. When someone takes a nasty blow, no bowler is going to say 'I'm not going to bowl that again because I don't want to hit them again' - the concern is always there when someone takes it but next ball, when you get back to the mark, it's 'I'm going to keep doing it'."
Despite watching Archer at close quarters both with England and at Rajasthan, Stokes admitted he too struggles to pick up the short ball, because, he says, Archer's rhythmical approach to the crease gives no hint of what's to come.
"He doesn't have any tells," said Stokes. "Some bowlers you get a tell when they're going to bowl a bouncer or a different ball, but because everything is so rhythmical with Jofra it is tough to see when that bouncer is coming. He's very tight to the stumps as well. Everything looks just so languid, you wonder if he's loose and then he fires one … watching he ball fly through, it was very impressive to watch.
"He gives another dimension to our bowling attack and what we are able to do. The first innings he bowled 29 maybe 30 overs, but his last spell of eight overs was one of the best out-and-out fast bowling spells I have seen since I started playing.
"We've seen Mitchell Johnson do it to us, especially in 2013, but Jofra just makes it look so easy … like he's walking in to bowl. And I'd rather have him on my team than have to face him. He's a frightening talent and he's announced himself on the world stage, just in a different format again this year. Literally the sky is the limit for him and he's a great addition to our Test team."
One area of concern, however, revolved around Archer's workload in his maiden Test, which his match tally of 44 overs being exactly twice as many as that of Chris Woakes, and four times as many as Stokes was called upon to deliver. Stokes, however, insisted that the rain-reduced nature of the contest - as well as England's desire to claw back their 1-0 deficit - played a part in Joe Root's tactics.
"A lot played into the fact we lost two days to rain," he said. "Jofra was the biggest threat and you're going to throw the ball to your biggest threat, and that's Jofra and Stuart [Broad]. I'm easy whether I'm not bowling or bowling long spells. I just do whatever Joe says to be honest."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket