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Stand by your man! Jofra Archer might be a maverick but England should be backing him - not dropping him

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 14/01/2020 Nasser Hussain for the Daily Mail
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 23: England bowler Jofra Archer looks on during an England nets session ahead of the First Test Match against South Africa at SuperSport Park on December 23, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) © 2019 Getty Images PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 23: England bowler Jofra Archer looks on during an England nets session ahead of the First Test Match against South Africa at SuperSport Park on December 23, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

There should be no doubt Jofra Archer is the best man to replace Jimmy Anderson in the third Test here on Thursday and must be given every chance to prove himself fully fit.

If Archer really is only around 80 per cent fit on Thursday after injury, then I can fully understand England leaving him out and instead going with the pace of Mark Wood. But if Archer turns around ahead of the game and says he is confident he has fully recovered from his elbow problem then England have to put faith in him.

Video: Joe Root: Archer adds a different dynamic to England

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Just look at his statistics. Archer has three five-wicket hauls in his first seven Tests and, to put that in context, it is the same amount Andrew Flintoff managed in his whole career. And Freddie was described by Ricky Ponting last week as one of the best fast bowlers he ever faced.

That is a fabulous start to an international career by anyone’s standards, so why are England in a situation where both Wood and Chris Woakes appear to have overtaken Archer for that last place in their third Test line-up? And why should there be a bowl-off, as it was described on Monday, between Archer and Wood in practice at St George’s Park?

It is not how you bowl in the nets that matters, it is what you do in the match. Wood is clearly an excellent bowler in his own right, but how can he leapfrog Archer in the pecking order when he has not played a Test for a year?

Chris Woakes et al. standing next to a football ball: If the speedster can't bowl at full pace he will miss out on the Test match in Port Elizabeth © Provided by Daily Mail If the speedster can't bowl at full pace he will miss out on the Test match in Port Elizabeth Is it because Archer is perceived as being slightly different in his approach to the game, perhaps a little bit difficult for the captain to manage? That should be no reason to shy away from the issue now and take the easier option. Of course he will have his ups and downs, but Archer is still a young bowler who is inexperienced at this level.

This is not a Jofra Archer issue. It is an English cricket problem. We tend to be wary of people who perhaps are a little unconventional, going back to David Gower and then Kevin Pietersen. The highly talented maverick who wants to do things his own way.

Maybe Archer does not always follow the plans put in front of him by Joe Root and Chris Silverwood but, at the risk of repeating myself, look at the pace and skill he can bowl with and, most importantly, just look at those statistics he has piled up already.

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Jofra is a unique talent, no question. He is one of the new breed of modern cricketer. I’m certain there is a fire and passion burning within him. He doesn’t have to be a Ben Stokes and wear his heart on his sleeve. He just needs a bit more understanding.

Archer is the consistent selection, too. First, he must be convinced himself he is fit to get through a five-day Test after his elbow injury. And England should leave it until the last possible moment on Thursday morning for him to make that judgment.

Then, as long as the medical staff agree, Archer should be an automatic choice because he not only represents the best wicket-taking option and has a massive X-factor but he was also the man in possession in the first Test before injury struck.

a screenshot of a newspaper © Provided by Daily Mail There was another example of English cricket perhaps being harsh on someone who is a little different when Jonny Bairstow was dropped as keeper-batsman at the end of last summer and replaced by Jos Buttler.

Bairstow’s keeping stats were very impressive and, even though he had a poor run of form with the bat, he was worth investing in and sticking with. But maybe the fact he can be a bit abrasive at times and say the wrong things counted against him.

As a captain, you do not want to field 11 ‘yes’ men who all stick to the plans and do what they are told at all times. You want different characters who bring different things and quite often the ones with the X-factor are tricky to manage. It is up to the captain to manage them and make sure they get the best out of them.

a man wearing a black shirt: Mark Wood is fighting fit ahead of the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth © Provided by Daily Mail Mark Wood is fighting fit ahead of the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth Now England, as Graham Thorpe told Sportsmail last week, have to follow up in this Test what they did at Newlands and start producing the goods consistently.

Joe Denly is shaping up nicely at three but now needs to do what Dom Sibley did in the second Test and go on to a hundred. If Joe Root, who had an excellent game as captain last time, can come in at 150 for two rather than 20 for two that will make a massive difference. And then the dynamic middle order can really flourish if the platform has been laid.

Historically you need a spinner in Port Elizabeth and, even though they have left a bit more grass on the pitch in recent years, Dom Bess should carry on now, particularly with the sad news that Jack Leach has to go home. But let’s not get too giddy about Bess. He did a job in Cape Town for the team but he only took one wicket in each innings and bagged a pair. There is a lot more needed.

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: If Jofra Archer is only 80 per cent fit then I can understand why England might leave him out © Provided by Daily Mail If Jofra Archer is only 80 per cent fit then I can understand why England might leave him out Yes, if Archer is not fit then Wood would be a very good replacement because, as well as being quick, the ball could reverse swing for him here. The pitch looks very abrasive and it will dry out quickly because of the breeze. But if Jofra is ready to go on Thursday he has to play. He is another big piece in the England jigsaw and Root has to make the most of him.

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