Awesome Archer could be final piece in the puzzle for title-seeking England

If England are to finally win the Cricket World Cup, they will view events that happened in 2015 as the turning point.

Four years ago in Australia and New Zealand, the ODI team hit rock bottom. An outdated, pedestrian approach to 50-over cricket was exposed as they were thrashed in four of their opening five games and meekly exited the tournament. 

It was a wake-up call that prompted a revolution. England became more aggressive, developed a ruthless streak and entered this tournament, on home soil, as the ICC's top-ranked nation and the favourites to end their wait for a maiden World Cup triumph.

And yet if Eoin Morgan is to lift the trophy at Lord's on July 14, it may well be because of another 2015 event.

It was four years ago when Barbados-born Jofra Archer upped sticks and moved to England having been frustrated by a lack of opportunities with West Indies.

Back then he would not have been in the England and Wales Cricket Board's plans for the 2019 World Cup. Had the previous residency requirements stayed in place, Archer would likely have been playing county cricket for Sussex on Thursday.

Instead, the rules were relaxed and Archer was spearheading England's attack, his 3-27 the driving force behind a 104-run victory over South Africa in the World Cup opener at The Oval.

After watching Archer unsettle the Proteas' top order, it is hard to imagine why there was even any discussion about whether he should be named in the 15-man squad once he qualified to play for England in March.

The doubters pointed to Sam Burgess' inclusion in England's 2015 Rugby World Cup squad just six months after his union debut. The subsequent humiliating tournament the hosts endured left Burgess scapegoated.

Why would their cricket equivalents risk upsetting their own applecart with a player who only made his ODI debut earlier this month when they already looked so primed for glory with a settled squad? 

That question was put to bed emphatically on Thursday. This is supposed to be the tournament when England's batsmen take centre stage but having posted 311-8 on a green-tinged surface, it was Archer who needed to be the difference-maker. 

His impact was felt even before he took his first wicket, a vicious 90mph short ball rearing up and crashing into Hashim Amla's helmet grille in the fourth over, forcing the opener off hurt, though he would later return.

It was Archer who made the first breakthrough too as he responded to Aiden Markram crashing him through the covers for four by finding the South African's edge with the very next delivery.

Captain Faf du Plessis was the next to fall. Another shorter ball top-edged to Moeen Ali at fine leg. The extra pace, the added bounce, was proving too much for a South African team that looked like deer in the headlights every time Archer started his run up.

By the end of his first five-over spell - which yielded 2-20 - South Africa were 44-2 and up against it. And when Archer returned for the 32nd over, half-centurion Rassie van der Dussen became his third victim with another miscued swipe, this one reaching Moeen at mid-on.

At that point the game was done. Ben Stokes, himself curiously omitted from the 2015 World Cup squad, had top-scored for England with 89 and later produced one of the greatest catches ever with a diving one-handed take to account for Andile Phehlukwayo, yet it was Archer who made the most telling impact.

England's path to potential glory in July may have started in 2015, and they may get there thanks to the newcomer who has been plotting his international journey for just as long.

Read Full Story