England hope Archer is on target against Smith in second Ashes Test

England’s Jofra Archer during a training session at Lord’s cricket ground in London on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 13 August 2019

England hope Archer is on target against Smith in second Ashes Test

  • Holders Australia, bidding to win their first away Ashes series for 18 years

LONDON: England are set to field a revamped attack featuring fast bowler Jofra Archer as they try to finally get Australia’s batting star Steve Smith out cheaply and level the Ashes in the second Test at Lord’s.

Holders Australia, bidding to win their first away Ashes series for 18 years, humbled England last time out thanks in large part to Smith, who returned to this level following a 12-month ban for his involvement in a ball-tampering scandal with two centuries as they cruised to a 251-run first Test win at Edgbaston.

England have only twice won the Ashes after losing the opener — when all-rounder Ian Botham turned the 1981 series on its head with several superb solo efforts, and in the thrilling 2005 contest which they edged 2-1.

Defeat at Edgbaston was made worse for England by the fact that James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, broke down after bowling just four overs with a calf injury that has ruled the 37-year-old swing specialist out of a Lord’s encounter starting Wednesday.

“We are very aware that England played without James Anderson, one of their best players and we got lucky,” said Australia coach Justin Langer.

“That’s the truth of it, with him not playing. He’s a brilliant fast bowler, one of the all-time greats, so if he only bowls four overs for the match then we got lucky there.

“Here at Lord’s there’s different conditions and different pressures so we just have to make sure we’re right for this Test match,” added the former Australia opener, who played at the “home of cricket” for English county Middlesex.

Anderson’s absence means England are set to give a Test debut to Archer, who will be returning to the ground where he bowled the dramatic Super Over that sealed a thrilling World Cup final win over New Zealand last month.

But the 24-year-old, coached at Sussex by former Australia paceman Jason Gillespie, has played just 28 first-class matches and Langer was looking to his batsmen to wear Archer down in a way that’s not possible in a one-day international, where bowlers are restricted to a maximum of 10 overs.

“It’s the same for everyone in Test cricket, get them into their second, third and fourth spells,” Langer said.

But a defiant Archer insisted he was ready for the challenge, having proved his fitness for Sussex in a 2nd XI match against Gloucestershire during which he took 6-27 in the first innings and then scored 108 after a side strain ruled him out of contention at Edgbaston.

“I’ve played a lot more red-ball cricket and it’s my preferred format,” Archer said. “I’m more ready than I’ve ever been.

“I bowled 50 overs in one game for Sussex and am the one usually bowling at the end.

England are also set to field left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who scored a career-best 92 in the one-off Test win over Ireland at Lord’s last month, after Moeen Ali was dropped following the off-spinner’s lacklustre display at Edgbaston.

Analysis by CricViz shows Smith averages a modest 34.90 against left-arm spin compared to a superb overall Test mark of nearly 63.

But as for suggestions Smith had an inherent weakness when confronted with this type of bowling, Langer replied: “No, I don’t buy into it.

“He has got this incredible ability to solve problems.”


Federer sets up Djokovic showdown

Updated 29 January 2020

Federer sets up Djokovic showdown

  • Federer, 38, now goes into an unmissable semifinal with Djokovic

MELBOURNE: Swiss great Roger Federer said “I believe in miracles” after he saved seven match points in a five-set nail-biter against 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren to go into an Australian Open semifinal with Novak Djokovic on Tuesday.

The six-time champion, struggling physically, saved three match points at 4-5 in the fourth set and four more in the tie breaker to scrape through 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.

Federer, 38, now goes into an unmissable semifinal with Djokovic, who blunted Milos Raonic’s razor serve to win 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) and move two wins from an eighth Melbourne title.

Djokovic, despite trouble with his contact lenses, ended Raonic’s run of 63 straight games in the tournament without a break of serve and moves smoothly into the semis for the loss of just one set so far.

He paid tribute to the great escape by Federer, ahead of a semifinal that reprises his epic win over the Swiss in last year’s Wimbledon decider.

“What he did today was really amazing, to come back and save seven match points at his age,” Djokovic said.

“He’s still playing such a great tennis and proving that he deserves to be up there. He’s a great fighter. Obviously I have lots of respect for him.” Federer’s match was incident-packed and he received a rare warning for an audible obscenity before going off-court for treatment on a groin injury.

Still hampered by the injury, he somehow forced a fifth set and began to regain control against the big-serving American.

“I believe in miracles,” Federer said, revealing that he thought his groin strain had ended his chances. “There could be rain, there could be all kinds of stuff.

“(I thought) just let him finish me off in style, and he didn’t do that. I’m incredibly lucky tonight, today — I don’t even know what time it is.”

Sandgren, achingly close to becoming the lowest-ranked player to beat Federer at the Australian Open, can count himself unlucky especially after a ball girl accidentally collided with him during the pivotal tie-breaker, which he lost.

Federer has made heavy weather of reaching his 46th Major semifinal. He was two points from defeat by John Millman in a fifth-set tie-breaker in round three, and dropped a set against 67th-ranked Marton Fucsovics in round four.

In the women’s draw Australia’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty dismissed two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in impressive style to reach the semis for the first time.

The unflappable Barty beat the Czech 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 and will be favorite in her semifinal against America’s Sofia Kenin — sending hopes soaring of a first home winner in 42 years.