LONDON: Jofra Archer continued his bid to earn a place in England’s World Cup squad with a hostile opening spell against Pakistan before rain meant there was no result in Wednesday’s first one-day international at The Oval.
Archer conceded just six runs in four overs in a wicket-taking spell after England captain Eoin Morgan won the toss. The Sussex fast bowler’s display was a rare highlight for a patient crowd who endured several rain interruptions in a mere 19 overs’ cricket in south London before the umpires finally called this day/night fixture off at 7:11 pm (1811 GMT) local time.
Pakistan were 80 for two, with Imam-ul-Haq 42 not out and Haris Sohail unbeaten on 14.
Barbados-born Archer was not included in tournament hosts’ England’s preliminary squad for the World Cup but has a chance to force his way into their final 15. He showed glimpses of his ability while making ODI and Twenty20 international debuts against Ireland and Pakistan last week.
On Tuesday, former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff say “anyone” should be dropped to make sure Archer had a place in the World Cup squad. And Archer seized his latest chance in Wednesday’s opening contest of a five-match ODI series with Pakistan after England captain Eoin Morgan won the toss.
Archer started with a superb maiden over to Imam, generating movement off the pitch at sharp pace. And it was not long before he had Fakhar Zaman — the century-making star of Pakistan’s 2017 Champions Trophy final win over arch-rivals India at The Oval — edging on three to Test skipper Joe Root in the slips.
New batsman Babar Azam (16) struck three stylish boundaries before he edged Liam Plunkett to wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, with Pakistan now 45 for two. What turned out to be the last ball of the day saw Buttler miss a chance to stump Haris off leg-spinner Adil Rashid, with the batsman stranded down the pitch.
Imam recovered his composure after Archer’s fine start, the opener facing 68 balls, including five fours. The series continues at Southampton on Saturday. Under overcast conditions in a game reduced to 47 overs-a-side due to rain that delayed the start by 75 minutes, Morgan chose to stick with batting second.
Jason Roy wasn’t deemed fit enough to start yet, and James Vince had been inducted to open the batting with Jonny Bairstow, while Moeen Ali’s absence gave Joe Denly another chance in the middle order.
Pakistan’s team was fairly predictable, although Yasir Shah’s absence has come as a mild surprise, given the legspinner needed game time should he be required to fill in for an illness-stricken Shadab Khan at the World Cup. Mohammad Amir, not chosen in the preliminary squad, started in a bid to gain a spot in the final 15, while allrounder Imad Wasim was the lead spin option.
This five-match series is the last cricket either team plays ahead of the World Cup, where England kick off proceedings with the opening game against South Africa on May 30.