England’s Jofra Archer takes Bangladesh’s Sarkar to the cleaners | Ali Martin

Fast bowler tore in with a record-breaking spell that included an absolute beauty to dismiss the opener

It was a good day to hang up the washing. After 48 hours of miserable weather in the Welsh capital the sun was finally out, while a strong wind blew in from south-west that would have your smalls dry in no time.

At Sophia Gardens – or the Cardiff Wales Stadium as it is being called during this World Cup – these conditions played very much in the favour of those charging in from the Cathedral Road End, most notably England’s shiny new toy, Jofra Archer.

Thrown the new ball by Eoin Morgan and with 386 runs to defend, Archer had full license to remove the handbrake and hit the Bangladesh openers with pace. And boy did he, serving up the fastest opening ODI spell witnessed from an England bowler in the 13 years that the analysts having been logging every ball.

Across his first five overs Archer averaged 145.93kmh, 90.6mph in old money. But it went beyond the numbers as the white Kookaburra whistled down in a manner that made batting look as uncomfortable as a pair of budgie-smugglers that have shrunk in the tumble dryer. Within this came the most eye‑catching of breakthroughs too.

Having seen a 95mph delivery rise off a good length and fly off the edge of Soumya Sarkar’s bat – only for Joe Root to grass a low effort at slip – Archer decided to take the fielders out of the equation altogether, with his next ball sent down a shade under 90mph but a fraction fuller.

The left-handed Sarker was once again late on the shot, with the ball jagging back, trimming the top of the off-bail and flying straight over the boundary rope. It was not quite Jeff Thomson slamming them into the sightscreen on the half-volley in 1973 – as so viscerally described by Christian Ryan in the 2012 Wisden - but it was not far off either.

For Archer, whose top speed was later surpassed by a 95.6mph delivery from Mark Wood that now sits as the fastest in the World Cup, this performance was a handy reminder of his charms. Of the England players keen to right a few wrongs after last Monday’s defeat to Pakistan at Trent Bridge, he was fairly high on the list.

Taken for 79 runs from 10 wicketless overs and left lighter in the pocket after a show of dissent, the 24-year-old had experienced the first setback of his fledgling international career. As responses go, this menacing new-ball burst was pretty emphatic.

A penny for the thoughts of Mashrafe Mortaza as he sat in the pavilion watching this early show of effortless pace from Archer. In theory the pair perform the same job. But for the Bangladesh captain it takes every sinew being strained just to get the ball down close to 80mph.

This comparison is not made to belittle Mortaza, far from it. Because as his head coach, Steve Rhodes, noted before this match, it is a “walking miracle” that the 35-year-old is still playing international cricket at all.

This was Mortaza’s 300th appearance for his country across all formats, a figure that represents just over half the matches they have played since his debut back in 2001. During this time he has undergone seven operations on his two wonky knees, three on his ankles and countless soft-tissue injuries.

With both knees in braces, his approach to the crease these days is a painful hobble compared to Archer’s silken glide. Such impairment leaves him relying on street smarts for his incisions, something that came to the fore when, using a canny switch to around the wicket, he teased a leading edge off Jonny Bairstow on 51.

A final over that cost 18 runs, as Liam Plunkett and Chis Woakes made merry at the end, ruined what had been previously been solid figures of one for 50 from nine overs in the face of a Jason Roy‑inspired onslaught from England’s thunderbats.

Cardiff has happier memories for Mortaza. He is the one remaining Bangladesh player from the side that, in 2005, made the world sit up and take notice by humbling Australia. Back then he was more slippery, trapping the great Adam Gilchrist lbw second ball to start proceedings.

Mortaza has not been blessed with the same physical attributes as Archer, but his sheer courage and determination during the injury-ravaged years since stand unquestionable.


Ali Martin at Cardiff Wales Stadium

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