Speaking before the start of the third day of the fourth Test, which England need to avoid losing to keep the Ashes alive, Silverwood – a former fast bowler himself – said that Archer is finding his way in what is only his third Test and cannot be expected to bowl at 90mph in every spell of the series.
“I think we’re just going to be careful with Jofra,” Silverwood told Sky Sports. “He’s playing his third Test match, so we’ve got to cut him a little bit of slack. He’s still finding his way into international cricket. He’s figuring out what it’s all about.
“Test cricket is hard work. You must put the workload in, but it’s there, and he’s trying and we’ve seen what he’s capable of. But he’s not going to do it every day.”
Archer set the series alight with his performance on debut at Lord’s, where he bowled at speeds of up to 96mph and left Steve Smith with concussion following a fearful blow to the head. He then claimed a six-wicket haul in England’s remarkable win at Headingley last week to heighten the expectations on a player who had already played an integral role in England’s World Cup win earlier in the summer.
However, having bowled 44 overs at Lord’s and a further 31.1 at Headingley, Archer’s speeds were noticeably down in his 27-over spell at Old Trafford, averaging in the mid-80s compared to the early 90s, a point which Justin Langer, Australia’s coach, had flagged before his debut when he vowed to “keep wearing him down” as the series wore on.
Archer’s approach to the crease was shown by Sky’s analysts to be slower too, a point which Silverwood acknowledged.
“The one thing that we see, sat on the side when he’s running in, he gets his knees pumping and he really attacks the crease,” Silverwood said. “But again, it’s part of his learning process, he is figuring out what he can and can’t do in Test cricket at the moment. And it’s his third game.
“The exciting thing is we know he can hit 90-plus miles an hour but, saying that, I didn’t bowl fast every day either, even though I tried. Sometimes it just doesn’t click.”
Archer also appeared non-plussed at one late stage of the innings, when directed by his captain Joe Root to bowl round the wicket to Tim Paine – a tactic that lasted for two balls before he reverted to his standard angle from over the wicket. Root’s captaincy of Archer has raised eyebrows all series long, amid concerns that he is over-using his most potent weapon, and expecting him to fulfil too many roles in the attack.
“You’ve got to drip-feed things in,” said Silverwood. “It’s an educational process for Jofra coming into the team, and obviously it’s the same for Joe. He’s learning how to captain Jofra, and hey, as fast bowlers, we’re a little bit grumpy, aren’t we? We normally like to get on with how we want to do it. But you’ve got to be open to suggestions and ideas and try new things as well.”
It won’t have helped Archer’s mood to have been bowling to a batsman in such a stunning vein of form. Irrespective of that Lord’s incident, Smith has now racked up 589 runs at 147.25 in the series, and Silverwood admitted that his success had left the England team scratching their collective heads.
“We’ve tried a few [plans], to be honest,” he said. “Everything we’ve thrown at him, he seems to have come up with an answer. But he’s just very good. I mean, it’s great to watch him, though preferably not against us. We’ve gone from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C, and he seems to figure out a way, which is probably where the genius lies within him.”
England could, of course, have removed him for 118, not 211, had Jack Leach not bowled a fateful no-ball while inducing an edge to slip midway through the second day.
“You don’t want anybody to bowl no-balls, it’s hard enough to get Steve Smith out anywhere without obviously this happening,” said Silverwood. “But there’ll be nobody more disappointed with Jack about that. And I’m sure he will work very hard not to let that happen again.
“It can take the wind out of your sails, to be honest, as a group and as a team,” he added. “But at the same time, you’ve got to get over it because these things happen. We’ve got to put that behind us now and move on.”